Hitmen defeat Rebels in overtime to tie series
Hitmen 2 Rebels 1 (OT)
Nobody said it would be easy.
The Red Deer Rebels had a hunch the Calgary Hitmen would present a stiff challenge in their WHL Eastern Conference quarter-final. Turns out they were correct.
David Adaszynski scored at 16:42 of overtime Saturday night to give the Hitmen a 2-1 win over the Rebels in front of 5,077 fans at the Peavey Mart Centrium, squaring the best-of-seven series at a game apiece.
Game 3 goes Monday in Calgary.
“You’d like to win them all but you’re not going to win them all. That was a typical playoff game where you battle until the end,” said Rebels head coach Steve Konowalchuk.
“Could we have come away with a win, sure. They played hard too, it’s playoff hockey. It’s going to be a good series. We have to turn the page and move on.”
In a second highly entertaining contest in as many nights — following Red Deer’s 3-0 win Friday — the Hitmen forced overtime when Sean Tschigerl, with netminder Brayden Peters on the bench in favour of an extra attacker, knocked home a loose puck in the crease with a mere 1:37 remaining in the third period.
The Rebels were forced to kill a tripping penalty to Carson Birnie three minutes prior to the winning goal and had plenty of chances to pull out a win earlier in the extra frame.
But the visitors sent most of the fans home disappointed when Adaszynski took a perfect feed from Carter MacAdams and beat Rebels goaltender Kyle Kelsey with a high shot from 30 feet out.
“It can kind of go either way once you get into overtime. It’s always tight,” said Rebels captain Jayden Grubbe.
“It’s nothing to worry about. It’s a series, we kind of expected that. They’re a good team, we’re not going to expect to go through the whole series with no adversity, so I think we just reset.
“We played well but a couple of things we can tighten up.”
The game was scoreless through two periods before the Rebels broke through with the first goal at 11:30 of the third by defenceman Christoffer Sedoff, who has been outstanding for Red Deer all season and recently earned a pro contract with the Vegas Golden Knights.
Sedoff gained control of the puck at centre ice, broke down the right side and ripped a shot to the far top corner of the net.
The goal looked like it might hold up, until the visitors potted the late marker.
The win gave the Hitmen home ice advantage in the best-of-seven set, but the Rebels have played well on the road all season.
And besides . . .
“Road or home, I think the more you play teams, the more you go into buildings, home ice kind of loses its advantage,” said Konowalchuk.
“At playoff time home ice isn’t always an advantage. We just have to go in there and play our game, keep our heads up. You’re not going to win every game.”
The fourth game of the series is slated for Wednesday at the Scotiabank Saddledome, with a fifth game back at the Centrium Friday.
“There’s been some good hockey. We’ve played some good hockey,” said Konowalchuk. “Is it perfect, no. You’re always upset when you don’t win but you’re not going to win them all.
“We just have to make sure we keep our attitudes up and our morale up, go back and get focused for our next shift.”
Game four goes Wednesday night in Calgary. Game five at the Peavey Mart Centrium goes Friday, April 7 at 7 p.m. Tickets go on sale Sunday starting at 10 a.m.
Notable: The Rebels had a goal by Kai Uchacz disallowed in the second period after the Hitmen won an offside challenge. Konowalchuk, in turn, challenged the winning goal when it appeared a Hitmen defender, at the blueline, closed his hand on the puck to start the decisive play . . . For the second night in succession, neither team scored with a man advantage. Both were zero-for-four on the power play . . . Peters turned aside 38 shots while Kelsey made 36 saves . . . The three stars: (1) Sedoff, (2) Rebels defenceman Mats Lindgren and (3) Adaszynski . . . Sixth and seventh games, if needed, will go April 9 in Calgary and April 11 at the Centrium.