Former Edge hockey player to play post-season with Rebels
Silver linings are tough to find, but a former Edge Mountaineer found out that they sometimes appear in the most unexpected places.
Mathew Dumba liked his chances heading into his second World Junior national team selection camp. He was only 17 when he was first invited to the 2011 and was more confident coming into camp as an 18 year old.
“I knew what to expect,” Dumba said. “It wasn’t all new to me. Being the youngest guy at camp as a 17 yea old was tough. You were looking up to guys you’ve played against or heard of and they’re all so talented and skilled. I wanted to play without the nerves that I had at the first one.
“I thought this year’s camp was good. I had a rough first game, but I felt like I played well. I thought I did what I was told and I worked hard. It was just an unfortunate scenario, I guess.”
When the final cuts came down at the end of the four-day December camp, Dumba was the last player released. While Team Canada travelled to Finland for a pre-competition tune-up and eventually to Ufa, Russia where the World Junior Championships were held, Dumba returned to Red Deer and closed out December with his WHL club, the Red Deer Rebels.
The NHL lockout ended Jan. 6 and Dumba was invited to the Minnesota Wilds, the team that drafted him seventh overall in last June’s entry draft, abbreviated training camp. While he wasn’t expecting to be invited to the camp, what came after the camp was even more surprising, Dumba said.
Dumba was named to the team’s roster for its season opener Jan. 19.
“It was pretty amazing,” Dumba said of the call from Minnesota. “It was an awesome feeling knowing that they believe me in. (Wild general manager) Fletcher and Coach (Mike) Yeo told that I was just coming for the camp, so I only packed for four days. I ended up staying for two-and-a-half weeks. It was awesome for me.
“I knew if I worked hard and showed them what I’d learned and how I’ve matured as a player and that I can play at that level there was a slight, slight chance that I could stick around, but I wasn’t expecting it at all.”
While Dumba was a healthy scratch for the four games he spent with the Wild, he used skating in warm ups and his time in the press box to soak up as much of the experience as he could.
“Skating in warm ups, looking across the ice and seeing guys like Jagr, Hejduk and Datsyuk was pretty cool,” he said. “Just being able to watch the games made me feel like part of the team and it was a privilege to be up there.”
Dumba returned to Red Deer after his stint with the Wild and has helped lead the team into the WHL playoffs. The Rebels started the season off with a nine-game losing streak, but have since jumped up the standings and into fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
As of press time, the Rebels had two games left in the regular season, hadn’t lost a game in March and were in position for home-ice advantage in the first round.
Midway through the season, Rebels owner and general manager Brent Sutter took over the head coaching duties after Jesse Wallin was fired and Dumba said the coaching change helped trigger the Rebels’ rise.
“He’s awesome at pushing us to our potential and he holds us accountable all the time,” Dumba said. “It’s made a big difference. He’s a great coach and he’s been doing the best of us.”
While the official playoff match ups had yet to be decided at press time, Dumba said the team is preparing to ride the momentum of its turnaround and for the intensity that comes with having home ice advantage in the playoffs.
“It’s just us about bearing down on the details and having fun,” he said. “We’ve been so good in our last 30 games. I think we’ve only lost five or six. It’s pretty amazing when we all buy into the systems and I think the home ice will work in our favour. We know what kind of atmosphere the playoffs hold.
“It’s about staying the course and staying to the processes we’ve held all season.”