Rebels fire three short-handed goals in convincing win over Tigers
Rebels 8 Tigers 3
MEDICINE HAT — There were all kinds of positive adjectives to describe the Red Deer Rebels’ performance Tuesday night.
The visitors were combative, resilient, and — more than anything — thrifty, capitalizing on a large percentage of their 25 shots on goal in an 8-3 Western Hockey League upset rout of the Medicine Hat Tigers before 3,089 fans at the Canalta Centre.
The victory clinched at least an Eastern Conference wild-card playoff berth for the Rebels, who can wrap up third place in the Central Division with a win over the Calgary Hitmen Wednesday.
“We played hard, we competed, we battled and our goaltending was good,” said Red Deer GM/head coach Brent Sutter.
“There are still things that we need to tighten up in our zone, but our compete level and work ethic were really good.”
Included in the Rebels’ offensive explosion were five third-period goals, including four in a span of 2:15 and a pair of two-on-one short-handed markers a mere 20 seconds part.
“We obviously scored some huge goals short-handed,” said Sutter, whose squad was clinging to a 3-2 lead heading into the final frame.
“That second period was huge for us . . . to come out of that period ahead against a very good team,” added the Rebels boss.
The Tigers led 1-0 after 20 minutes on a power-play tally from Matt Bradley, who beat Rebels netminder Lasse Petersen with a knuckleball from the left faceoff circle.
Petersen could hardly be blamed for the somewhat lucky goal, and he certainly was locked in from there. The 19-year-old finished with 37 saves while recording his 17th win of the season.
“He settled in after that first goal and was pretty solid from that time on,” said Sutter.
The Rebels pulled even 7:38 into the second period when Lane Zablocki connected on a short-handed penalty shot, but Zach Fisher potted a man-advantage marker just 15 seconds later to restore the Tigers’ one-goal margin.
Red Deer forward Brandon Hagel notched his 26th of the season just under three minutes later and Jordan Roy gave the Rebels a lead they would not relinquish when he connected from a scramble with 2:35 remaining in the period.
Veteran Nick Schneider replaced Michael Bullion in the Medicine Hat net at the start of the third period, but Bullion was back in after Schneider surrendered four goals on seven shots.
Hagel scored his second of the night on a rebound at 6:42 of the third, then set up Austin Glover 64 seconds later. From there, Glover fed Evan Polei on a short-handed two-on-one and Michael Spacek cashed a feed from Hagel on a similar play 20 seconds later.
Max Gerlach responded for the Tigers with a man-advantage tally shortly after, but Roy netted his second goal of the evening — and fourth of the season — at 13:12 to complete the Red Deer onslaught.
Bullion and Schneider combined to make 17 saves.
“It was a big win,” said Sutter, whose squad on Wednesday will host another team chasing a playoff berth.
Red Deer is four points up on Calgary with each team having three regular-season games remaining and the Hitmen need two points to snare the wild-card berth.
The team that places third in the Central Division will take on the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the opening round of the playoffs. The wild-card seed will go up against the Regina Pats, who have been ranked No. 1 in the CHL for a good stretch of the season.
“We have to battle for it (third place) because they (Hitmen) are obviously in a situation where they need two points to clinch a playoff spot,” said Sutter.
Notable: Seven Red Deer players picked up multiple points in the game, with Hagel leading the way with two goals and two assists. Glover, Polei and Spacek each contributed a helper while Freadrich and Matt Campese had three and two assists, respectively . . . Another player was added to the Rebels’ lengthy injury list when forward Adam Pratt went down in practice Monday. He underwent an MRI Tuesday and the injury doesn’t appear to be as serious as was first feared. He’s listed as day-to-day (upper body).