The Rebels return to the ice on Thursday, January 4 to start a three game homestand against the Northeast Generals. It will be the first time in team history that it will be playing three consecutive home games.
For the second straight year, the Rebels are sitting atop the North American Hockey League’s East Division at the midway point. They possess a 21 – 8 record for 42 points. They are three points ahead of second place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights, although the Knights have a game in hand. Although the Rebels have the third best record in the league behind the Shreveport Mudbugs and perennial league powerhouse Fairbanks Ice Dogs, technically, they have the best winning percentage in the league with .724 (21/29).
Despite coming off a trip to the Robertson Cup finals, player turnover and moving to a new arena, the Rebels got off to a torrid start. The Rebels went 11 – 0 to begin the season, including a 4 – 0 record at the NAHL’s Showcase in Blaine, MN. It was the first time in team history that it went undefeated during the tournament. Air Force Academy commit Jensen Zerban was the star having scored three straight game winning goals, including an overtime goal against last season’s Robertson Cup semi-finalist foe Aberdeen Wings.
In addition to Zerban’s overtime goal, the team has won three more games during the extra period: Auggie Moore scored the game winner against the Knights, defenseman Dusan Kmec’s goal against the Generals and Andrew Bellant scored against the Johnstown Tomahawks. The team’s four overtime goals are the most in the league to date.
The Rebels are 7 – 1 against the Tomahawks outscoring them 30 – 10. They also possess a 5 – 1 record against the Generals outscoring them 26 – 15. They also have won 10 of 13 home games (77%).
The Rebels also will be the only team in the history of the NAHL to host a home game at the site of a National Hockey League team, the Wells Fargo Center and home of the Philadelphia Flyers.
However, not everything has been perfect in Rebel Nation since the return from the league showcase. The team had to cancel a game against New Jersey due to the fog at the Class of 1923 Arena (in which the Titans were winning the game 1 – 0); they have a 3 – 3 record against the Knights (each scoring 18 goals against each other), and they have lost four out of six games against the Titans having been outscored 15 – 11. The team also has been decimated with injuries, particularly on the blueline.
Although there have been some hiccups, the Rebels are still one of the top teams in the league and are looking to make it three straight East Division championships and another trip to the Robertson Cup tournament.
The Rebels have scored 95 goals in 29 games (which is fifth best in the league) and have allowed only 63 (third least allowed in the league). They have the league’s best powerplay unit having scored 31.7% of the time and are fourth in the league shorthanded having preventing the opposition from scoring 84.5% of the time.
Aaron Maguyon leads the team in total points with twenty-three (9 goals and 14 assists). Zerban (11 goals and 9 assists) and Bellant (8 goals and 12 assists) each have twenty points. Zerban leads the team in goals scored with eleven. The duo also has three game winning goals respectively. Bellant leads the team in penalty minutes with 78 while Carson Moniz has the best +9 +/- ratio.
Goaltenders Ryan Keane and Eli Billing have a combined 2.14 goals against average and .910 save percentage, with two shutouts (one by each). Keane has the fourth best GAA in the league with a 1.85.
The premise of the team, and the league itself, is to help aspiring 16 – 20 year olds in their quest to achieve their goal of a better education through collegiate hockey. Bellant committed to Michigan Tech at the end of November. With at least five months remaining in the season the Rebels could have more. Age outs Billing, Jordin Holmes, Ryan Patrick, Brandon Stanley and Kolby Vegara are looking to announce their commitment sometime in the near future along with some of the younger players.
The Rebels have thirty-one games remaining in the season, 15 of them are home, including the one at the Wells Fargo Center on March 10 against the Knights.
The Rebels will begin the second half with six straight home games. They then will play nine straight away games through and including February 14. They will close out the regular season on the road against the Tomahawks like they did last year.
Last year. It was a magical season but it’s over. This year’s team is really, really good, and head coach Joe Coombs is starting to see his team jell. Once they start firing on all cylinders, they want to write their own history by ending the playoffs with a win.