Rebels hold the fort on Pats for fourth-straight win
Rebels 3 Pats 2
The Red Deer Rebels finally have their heads above water.
The Rebels moved above the .500 mark Saturday with a 3-2 WHL win over the Regina Pats in front of 3,843 fans at the Peavey Mart Centrium.
The victory boosted the Rebels record to 10-9-0-3 and if the playoffs started now they’d be invited to the dance.
The victory was Red Deer’s fourth in a row and boosted the team into eighth place in the Eastern Conference, one point clear of Regina.
“I think we all believe we’re a team that can make the playoffs, and even better than that go far in the league,” said defenceman Mats Lindgren, the game’s first star.
“Now that we’re here we just have to keep it going. We can’t let off the gas pedal, we just have to keep sticking to the things we’re doing. All we can do is stay positive and work as hard as we can every day, come to the rink with a positive attitude and go from there.”
Despite outshooting their guests 38-25, the victory did not come without some anxious moments, particularly within the last two minutes. Rebels defenceman Matteo Fabrizi was assessed an interference penalty at the 18:16 mark and the Pats had a six-on-four advantage with netminder Kelton Pyne on the bench.
Rebels netminder Rhett Stoesser, as has been the case nearly all season, stood tall as the visitors applied pressure, stopping Sam Oremba from the low slot and then blocking a one-timer by Borya Valis at the buzzer.
“The guys were excellent getting in the shooting lanes, great sticks,” said Rebels head coach Derrick Walser of the late Regina push. “Egs (defensive coach Mike Egener) prepared them really well.
“The D corps was excellent down there, letting Stoesser see the shots.”
The Rebels were somewhat lax in moving the puck out of their end in the first and second periods and an early turnover led to the game’s opening goal as Brayden Barnett, from the low spot, rang a shot off the post and past Stoesser 7:07 into the contest.
Red Deer responded with a power play goal with 25 seconds remaining in the opening frame. Kai Uchacz, playing the left point, passed over to defenceman Mats Lindgren and the Buffalo Sabres prospect blasted a rising shot past Pyne.
“We had a pretty good screen, some help there,” said Lindgren. “I’m not sure if he (Pyne) saw it but I was just happy to get the goal to help the team win.”
A pair of goals just over three minutes apart early in the second period staked Red Deer to a 3-1 lead. Matthew Gard strolled out of the corner and banked a shot off Pyne’s shoulder and into the back of the net, and Carson Birnie, from the outer edge of the right circle, directed a shot at the Regina goal that glanced off a Pats skate and by Pyne.
But the visitors responded shortly after following yet another defensive error, with Oremba scooping up an errant puck, breaking in alone and picking the far corner.
“You can’t give teams easy goals. We gave them two easy ones,” said Walser.
“It’s one of those things we preach as a team, we want to make sure the puck is out before we leave the zone. But we found a way to gut it out and get the two points.”
The score held from there as both goaltenders refused to yield another goal. Pyne stopped 12 shots in the third period while Stoesser made five saves over the final 20 minutes, including two in the dying seconds.
“I think we really fought tonight. We’ve put up a few games now where we’ve played really well,” said Lindgren. “I think everything is coming together now systems wise, everything is starting to click.
“The boys are rolling and we just have to keep it going now, stay positive and look to the next game.”
The Rebels host the Calgary Hitmen Tuesday and then conclude their six-game home stand next Friday and Saturday versus the Moose Jaw Warriors and Everett Silvertips.
“It’s a quick turnaround. We go home, rest and then start preparing for Tuesday,” said Walser.
Reminded that the Rebels are now above the break-even mark, he responded: “We have a long way to go. There’s a lot of hockey left and we’re taking it a game at a time.”
Notable: Selected as the game’s second and third stars were (2) Oremba and (3) Birnie . . . With an assist on Lindgren’s goal, Uchacz extended his points streak to 11 games (9g, 7a during the span) . . . Stoesser finished with 23 saves, including a great glove stab on Logan Peskett in the first period and three in rapid succession during a Pats power play in the middle frame. Pyne made 35 saves . . . Red Deer was one-for-four on the power play while the Pats were zero-for-two with a man advantage.
(Photos by Taylor Lachance)