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Rebels next test for winless Blazers

Hay not unhappy with play in Saturday loss
By Gregg Drinnan
October 12, 2015 9:53 P.M.
Brent Sutter, the owner, general manager and head coach of the Red Deer Rebels, will have his team at the Sandman Centre tonight. (Hockey Canada photo)

Things aren’t about to get any easier for the Kamloops Blazers.
But, then, nothing is easy for a team that has lost the first six games of its WHL season.
The Blazers, at 0-6-0 the only winless team in the 22-team league, are scheduled to play the Red Deer Rebels tonight (Tuesday) at the Sandman Centre.
The Rebels (5-2-0), who will be the host team for the 2016 Memorial Cup tournament, are tied for second place in the Eastern Conference. However, they are 1-2-0 after opening with four straight victories. In their most recent game, they beat the visiting Calgary Hitmen 5-4 in OT on Saturday night.
At the same time, the Blazers were dropping a 3-1 decision to the visiting Victoria Royals.
In their last four games, the Rebels have allowed 17 goals. If you know anything about Brent Sutter, the team’s owner, general manager and head coach, you will know that he won’t be pleased.
“We need to get some guys playing a little better,” Sutter told Greg Meachem of the Red Deer Advocate before boarding the bus and heading west on Monday. “Our offence has dropped off and we’ve given up too many goals. . . . We have to tighten up defensively.”
However, Sutter believes he saw some progress in Saturday’s victory.
“We had the puck more,” he said. “Our puck-possession time was better than in the two previous games. But when you go on the road and are playing four (games) in five nights, you have to play the game the right way and make sure you keep things right.
“But there are certain guys who have to get going offensively for us. They are key players, older players who play in our top nine forwards. And yet we have to be careful because we don’t want them cheating, either. They just have to get to those scoring areas in the offensive zone.”
Red Deer’s two import players — Slovakian Michael Spacek and Russian Ivan Nikolishin — lead the team in scoring, with 12 and 11 points, respectively. However, forward Conner Bleackley, the team captain who have played five games since returning from the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, only has two points.
Like Sutter, Blazers head coach Don Hay has seen positives in his club’s play; he just hasn’t seen any victories.
“I thought we played a pretty solid game,” Hay said of Saturday’s loss to Victoria. “It was tight-checking out there. Both teams played hard. I liked the way we responded after giving up the first goal. We came back and pushed.
“I liked our compete and our effort. That’s a good sign. Hopefully, we’ll get a couple guys back. We face another tough challenge on Tuesday.”
Those “couple guys” would be veteran forwards Matt Revel and Jesse Zaharichuk. Revel missed the last three games with a should injury; Zaharichuk sat out Saturday with the flu.
JUST NOTES: Game time is 7 o’clock. . . . The Blazers remain without F Deven Sideroff (ill), while D Conner McDonald (undisclosed injury) isn’t ready, either. . . . The Blazers will have to make a roster move by Thursday when the 20-year-old deadline arrives. They are carrying four — F Luke Harrison, D Marc McNulty, F Matt Needham and D Ryan Rehill — and the maximum is three. . . . The Rebels are without highly touted sophomore D Josh Mahura (knee), who won’t play again for up to six months. He was a second-round pick in the 2013 bantam draft. . . .
F Cole Ully, who led the Blazers in goals, assists and points last season, was a healthy scratch Saturday night as the AHL’s Texas Stars opened their season with a 5-4 OT victory over the visiting San Antonio Rampage. . . . While it may not be likely Ully, 20, still is eligible to play for the Blazers. . . . Ex-Blazers F Brandon Ranford scored twice for the Stars in that victory. . . . Former Blazers captain Dylan Willick, who has started his third season at the U of New Brunswick, was named an academic All-Canadian for 2014-15, the second straight season he achieved that status. . . .
F Tyler Redenbach, who played minor hockey in Kamloops, has signed a one-year deal with Pardubice of the Extraliga in Czech Republic. He played last season with Pelicans Lehti in Finland’s Liiga. . . . Redenbach, now 31, won the WHL’s 2003-04 scoring title when he put up 105 points with the Swift Current Broncos.
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