Quick start powers Rebels to Game Five win over Brandon
REBELS 3, WHEAT KINGS 1
RED DEER LEADS SERIES 3-2
STORY BY DANNY RODE
The Red Deer Rebels got off to a blistering start then did exactly what they needed to do to take a 3-1 victory over the Brandon Wheat Kings before 5,003 fans at the Peavey Mart Centrium Friday.
The win gave the Rebels a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven WHL Eastern Conference quarter-final series with Game 6 Sunday in Brandon. If a Game 7 is needed it’s Tuesday back in Red Deer.
The game’s first star Kai Uchacz got the Rebels in gear just 47 seconds into the first period, slapping home a rebound past Wheat Kings netminder Ethan Kruger while on the power play.
Brandon captain Ridly Greig had taken a holding penalty 23 seconds into the period. Rebels did a good job of moving the puck on the man advantage with Kalen Lind taking a feed from Ben King at the left side of the net. He pulled the puck in front, forcing Kruger to make the save and when the rebound slipped in front both Uchacz and Lind slapped at it. Lind was credited with the goal before it was later changed to Uchacz.
“I’m not sure who got it, we were both swinging at it,” said Uchacz. “It doesn’t matter who got it it went in the back of the net.”
Rebels head coach Steve Konowalchuk acknowledged the quick start was important.
“It showed the guys were ready from the start and it got us going early.” he said.
The Rebels dominated play through most of the opening period until Jhett Larson made it 2-0 at 12:32, tipping in a Kyle Masters point shot.
Red Deer held a 16-2 edge in shots until a kneeing call against Lind at 16:12 seemed to give the Wheat Kings some momentum. They outshot the Rebels 9-1 over the final stretch, but couldn’t solve outstanding netminder Chase Coward, who was brilliant all evening, finishing with 27 saves, including a miraculous glove save off Brett Hyland at 7:06 of the second period. Hyland grabbed a lose puck in the slot but was unable to solve Coward.
“Coward was good. When we needed big saves he was there,” said Konowalchuk.
“He has been huge in all five games,” he was quick to point out.
The tide turned a bit in the middle stanza with the Wheat Kings controlling much of the play. But the Rebels held serve and took their two-goal lead into the third.
“They have a good team and they’ll make a push once in a while,” Konowalchuk said. “It was important to weather the storm and try to get the momentum back and I thought our guys did a good job battling hard all game.”
Konowalchuk gave credit to the line of Carter Anderson, Talon Brigley and Dallon Melin for getting the momentum back on Red Deer’s side.
“They don’t get a tonne of ice time, but they battled hard and got the momentum back. They got the puck deep and worked hard on the forecheck. The Uchacz line (with Lind and Frantisek Formanek) were solid as well.”
In fact, it was that line that sealed the victory. Holding a 2-1 lead, Uchacz and Formanek broke away on a two-on-one. The Brandon defenceman did a good job of going down to cut off the pass but Formanek showed tremendous patience and pulled the puck past the defender and slipped it in front to Uchacz who chipped it past Kruger at 13:03.
“Lindy (Lind) chipped it out and Frankie took it down the wall. I slowed up and he gave me an unbelievable pass and I got enough tape on it to chip it in,” explained Uchacz.
The Wheat Kings had made a game of it at 6:28 of the third period when defenceman Vincent Iorio took a cross-ice feed from Chad Nychuk as he cut into the right circle and beat Coward high to the glove side.
The win allowed the Rebels to keep home-ice advantage in the series.
“That’s huge in the playoffs,” said Uchacz. “But we’re back to Brandon and Game 6 will be exciting and hopefully we can take it.”
Game Six goes Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. Mountain Time (5 p.m. Central). It can be heard on 106.7 REWIND Radio and watched via WHL Live.
ICE CHIPS: Coward was the game’s second star and King third … The Rebels won 49 of 73 faceoffs with King winning 21 of 28, Uchacz 11 of 14 and Jayden Grubbe 13 of 22 … Kruger finished with 31 saves … Rebels were one-for-five on the power play and killed off all three penalties.