|Ethan Anders directs a loose puck away from the Rebels goal.|
Ethan Anders couldn’t wait for the last 14.2 of Wednesday’s WHL contest in Saskatoon to elapse.
The 17-year-old rookie netminder was on the cusp of collecting his first career WHL shutout as his Red Deer Rebels held a 2-0 edge over the host Blades. With 67 seconds to play in the third, 17-year-old sophomore left-winger Josh Tarzwell had scored into an empty net to give the Rebels a two-goal lead.
With 14.2 seconds to play in the third, Anders was staring down a defensive zone faceoff. As it was highly unlikely the Blades would score twice in that timespan to force overtime, Anders mind became consumed with holding on to get the blank.
“That was really nerve-racking,” said Anders. “I was hoping R.J. (Reese Johnson) would win that faceoff there, and he did.
“We got it out, which was like super nice to get that first shutout for sure.”
|Ethan Anders tracks the play in his own zone.|
In their second season since hosting the Memorial Cup in 2016, the Rebels are going through a rebuild icing a younger roster. Including Anders, Red Deer utilized eight players in their 17-year-old season of eligibility and three players in their 16-year-old seasons of eligibility on Wednesday night.
The Rebels could have hit the ice with an even young roster had they not scratched two 16-year-old rookie forwards.
Due to utilizing such a young group, the Rebels have taken their lumps this season, but they have won their last two straight and four of their last five to improve to 14-25-9-3. They sit nine points behind the Kootenay Ice (23-24-3) for third in the WHL’s Central Division and a playoff berth.
As the season progresses, Anders said he really likes how the young Rebels are coming together, and he gave the 18 skaters that played in front of him on Wednesday night big props for the shutout.
|G Ethan Anders and the Rebels defence stop Blades RW Josh Paterson.|
“It has been a tough start. We went on a bit of like a little skid there, but we are starting to play a lot better. The team is working harder for a full 60, and it is just really good for sure.”
Last season, Anders starred for the Tisdale Trojans in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League posting a .922 save percentage, a 2.48 goals against average and two shutouts in 26 regular season game appearances. Having gone unselected in the WHL Bantam Draft, the Rebels listed Anders halfway through last season.
|Tyler Brown turned away 24-of-25 shots in goal for the Blades.|
“It has been a bit of an adjustment for sure, but Brent (Sutter) has been playing me lots,” said Anders. “I am kind of more adapted to the league now than I was at the start of the year.
“I am feeling more comfortable when I step in the net for sure.”
The Rebels went ahead 1-0 just 1:49 into Wednesday’s contest, when a point shot from sophomore 17-year-old defenceman Jacob Herauf got past overage Blades netminder Tyler Brown. That was the only shot that beat Brown, who turned away 24-of-25 shots putting in a solid effort between the pipes for Saskatoon.
|Rebels D Dawson Barteaux gets control of the puck in his own zone.|
In the first period, a mid-range shot by Blades feisty forward Caleb Fantillo went off Anders glove and over top of the Red Deer goal.
Anders had to deny Blades centre Chase Wouters in close in the first period and right-winger Josh Paterson in tight during the third period.
Besides giving credit to his teammates, Anders said Rebels goaltending coach Taylor Dakers, who starred for the Ice from 2003 to 2007, has been a huge help.
“We will go out a little bit early (before practice) just to work on some little things he saw in games he didn’t like,” said Anders. “After practice, he will keep us a little bit just to work on little things, and it has definitely helped my game.”
As for another bonus, Anders collected his first shutout with about six to eight family members in attendance on Wednesday night.
|Ethan Anders (#31) celebrates his shutout with Riley Lamb.|
The Rebels move on to face the WHL leading Warriors (39-8-1-2) in Moose Jaw on Friday night.
The Blades fell to 25-24-2-1 with the setback. They sit in the second wildcard spot in the WHL’s Eastern Conference with a three point edge over the Prince Albert Raiders (20-20-8-2). The Raiders have two games in hand on the Blades.
Saskatoon sits four points back of the Memorial Cup hosting Regina Pats (26-22-5) for the first wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference with one game in hand. The Raiders sit seven points behind the Pats with three games in hand.
The Blades and the Raiders go at it on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre in Prince Albert.
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