Rebels come out on top in grinding battle with Hitmen
Rebels 3 Hitmen 2
CALGARY — Steve Konowalchuk and his charges had an inkling that Sunday’s WHL match versus the Calgary Hitmen would be a defensive battle.
“It was a grind, I certainly expected that and the players expected that,” said the Red Deer Rebels head coach following a 3-2 win before 3,647 fans at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
“They’re at home and they’re going to make you grind it out and it definitely was that. But we found a way to get a win.”
The Hitmen drew first blood 3:41 into the contest when Zac Funk beat netminder Chase Coward through the five-hole from deep in the right faceoff circle.
The goal held up until Ben King, at 14:32 of the second period, one-timed a rink-wide feed from Blake Stevenson into a gaping net with Red Deer on the power play.
Red Deer grabbed the lead with yet another man-advantage marker at 5:08 of the third period as Arshdeep Bains broke to the net and deflected a perfect feed from King past Hitmen goalie Brayden Peters.
The Red Deer power play units were impressive the entire game, going two-for-five and moving the puck around with authority.
“There seems to be a bit of confidence and chemistry with the two groups, and that’s important,” said Konowalchuk. “If you can get your power play moving the puck and having looks like we did, it can back other teams off. They have to go into a game making sure they don’t give you too many power plays.
“We want to keep moving it quick and want to keep executing because it can certainly help us moving forward.”
The Hitmen came within a whisker of tying the contest late in the contest, ringing a shot off the crossbar. Jhett Larson promptly went the other way, broke in alone and scored on a backhand deke with 6:27 remaining in the game.
The hosts pulled to within one with a power play tally of their own with 4:40 left, Riley Fiddler-Schultz connecting from the edge of the crease.
But the Hitmen couldn’t find the equalizer despite pulling Peters for an extra attacker with over a minute left.
It all added up to a hard-earned win for the Rebels, who were playing their first of seven consecutive games on the road.
“This is the start of our road trip and it’s good to get the first one,” said Konowalchuk.
“They (Hitmen) aren’t going to give you anything for free for the most part. I know we had the one game where we had some bounces (an 8-1 win Oct.15 in Calgary) but for the most part you’re not going to get anything for free. You have to match their work ethic and stick to the game plan.”
Both netminders sparkled, with Coward turning aside 31 shots and Peters making 25 saves.
📽️ WHL Highlights – October 31, 2021
Red Deer finishes the month of October in first place in the Central Division after a victory in Calgary.
— The WHL (@TheWHL) November 1, 2021
Notable: The Hitmen were one-for-three on the power play . . . The three stars: (1) Bains, (2) Peters and (3) King . . . Bains (1-1), King (1-1) and Sedoff (0-2) each recorded two points . . . The Rebels will depart late Tuesday on a six-game swing through the East Division. The trip starts Thursday In Winnipeg. Red Deer will play in Brandon the following night before returning to Winnipeg for a Sunday contest. From there, Red Deer will be in Moose Jaw Nov. 9, at Regina the following day and Nov. 12 in Prince Albert. The Rebels’ next home game is Nov. 19 against the Hitmen.