Rebels establish modern day WHL record with convincing conquest of host Oil Kings
Rebels 7 Oil Kings 2
EDMONTON — What a start. What a record.
And who said 13 is an unlucky number?
The Red Deer Rebels set a modern-day WHL record for most wins out of the starting gate, scoring five unanswered second-period goals and thumping the Edmonton Oil Kings 7-2 Sunday in front of 5,175 fans at Rogers Place.
The Rebels, who got two goals from defenceman Hunter Mayo and a goal and two assists from Kai Uchacz, improved to 13-0-0-0 with the impressive victory and earned accolades from head coach Steve Konowalchuk for the manner in which every player donated to the cause during the historic streak.
“It’s awesome for the guys. We’re moving on, but you look back and I think the neatest thing is how every single person has contributed to this,” he said, “starting with two goalies who had never played in the Western Hockey League and played as good as they have.”
The Rebels lost sniper Ben King to a lower body injury Oct. 22 but went on to win their next two games to tie the league mark for most victories to start a season.
In addition, No. 1 netminder Kyle Kelsey and stellar defenceman Mats Lindgren missed both games due to illness and impressive rookie forward Ollie Josephson was out with an injury, and all three were unavailable Sunday.
“Kinger helped us when he was in there but other guys have stepped up since he’s been out,” said Konowalchuk. “You can go through the list of different guys who have stepped up this season, from (Hunter) Mayo to (Talon) Brigley to Josephson.
“Our leaders have led all the way to make sure everyone is ready. That’s the cool thing about it — it’s been a legitimate team effort, not counting on just a few guys.
“Obviously our best players have been our best players when they’ve been in there, but it’s been such a good group of guys who have done it.”
The Rebels got off to a slow start Sunday due to back-to-back penalties inside of the first three minutes.
The penalty killers held the Oil Kings at bay, but Cole Miller struck for the hosts 4:23 into the contest with a shot from the left circle that caught the top corner of the net.
The Rebels responded six and a half minutes later when Mayo joined a three-on-two rush and beat netminder Alex Worthington with a rising shot.
Carson Golder notched the Oil Kings’ final goal of the game — a power play marker at the 13:07 mark — on a backhand wrap-around, but the Rebels pulled even once again when Uchacz back-handed a rebound past Worthington.
The visitors dominated the second period, starting early with Christoffer Sedoff sinking a wrist shot from the high slot 2:16 into the frame, then getting another goal from affiliate forward Escalus Burlock 41 seconds later.
Burlock’s goal was a prime example of the team’s next-man-up mentality.
“It was Burlock today, it was (Carson) Birnie the other day,” said Konowalchuk, referring to Birnie’s first ever WHL goal in Wednesday’s 6-2 win over the visiting Victoria Royals.
“Whoever has been in there has held themselves accountable to make sure they do it for their teammates. It really has been a team effort with guys being able to reset every game and get going again.”
Craig Armstrong notched Red Deer’s fifth goal, and his first with the Rebels, after Uchacz created a turnover deep in the Edmonton zone and found his teammate alone at the edge of the crease, and Mayo potted his second of the game from the top of the right circle with the Oil Kings short-handed.
Frantisek Formanek rounded out the visitors’ middle frame outburst in the final minute, finishing off a three-way passing play with Kalan Lind and Jhett Larson.
The Rebels coasted home in a scoreless final frame, outshooting their hosts 9-8 despite being assessed five penalties.
The Oil Kings were one-for-12 on the power play while the Rebels were two-for-five with a man advantage.
“The penalties put us in a hole in the first period, then we stayed out of the box long enough to get the momentum and get the lead,” said Konowalchuk. “Then the next thing you know we’re pretty much in penalty trouble for the rest of the game.
“It was kind of a weird game that way, they weren’t the undisciplined penalties that you get mad at. That part of it was good, but still, you don’t want to take that many penalties.”
Notable: The Rebels’ mark is considered a ‘modern-day’ record as the Estevan Bruins started the 1967-68 Western Canada Hockey League season with 22 straight wins. The WCHL became the WHL in 1978 . . . The Swift Current Broncos held the previous ‘modern-day’ WHL mark with 12 wins to start the 1988-89 season . . . Rebels netminder Rhett Stoesser made 23 saves Sunday while posting his fifth win of the season. At the other end, Worthington blocked 18 of the 25 shots he faced while Kolby Hay, who came in at the start of the third period, turned aside all nine he faced . . . Sedoff had an assist to go with his goal, while Lind and captain Jayden Grubbe each contributed a pair of helpers . . . The three stars: (1) Uchacz, (2) Mayo and (3) Grubbe . . . The game was the first of nine straight on the road for the Rebels, who return to action Friday versus the Swift Current Broncos . . . Red Deer’s next home game is Nov. 19 against the Brandon Wheat Kings.