Rebels Make A Statement With A Win Over Huskies
Rebels 5 Huskies 2
Red Deer Rebels forward Jake DeBrusk insisted Saturday that Sunday’s Memorial Cup round-robin contest versus the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies would be a ‘statement’ game for his club.
The Rebels reminded the other three teams competing in the tournament that they’re right in the mix for the national major junior hockey championship by posting a convincing 5-2 win over the Huskies before 7,377 mostly loud and proud patrons at the Centrium.
The victory gave the Rebels — 6-2 losers to the Ontario champion London Knights in the tournament opener Friday — a 1-1 record and assured them of at least a tie-breaker.
“I think we all got . . . not necessarily called out, but we had to look at ourselves in the mirror after the London game,” said DeBrusk, who scored once and picked up a pair of helpers while skating with Luke Philp and Adam Helewka.
“We certainly needed to respond after our game the other night,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter.
“Not taking anything away from London because they obviously played very well, but I didn’t think we played well in a lot of different areas. We needed to have a much better game here tonight and we did.”
The game started on a negative note for the tournament hosts, as the Huskies were up 2-0 by the eight-minute mark. With the Quebec champs on the power play, Timo Meier beat netminder Rylan Toth with a rising shot from the right faceoff circle and Julien Nantel doubled the count four minutes later.
Nantel’s goal looked bad on Toth, who gave up too much of the left side of his net as the Huskies forward broke in and caught the low corner.
Sutter called a timeout at that point, but Red Deer forward Jeff de Wit was assessed a tripping penalty shortly after.
The Rebels successfully killed the infraction and answered back at 11:07 when Conner Bleackley found Evan Polei with a cross-ice pass and the big winger wired a shot past netminder Chase Marchand.
“That was huge, it gave the kids some life and some momentum and we got back to playing like we can play,” said Sutter.
The home side went on the attack in the middle frame and sniped three unanswered goals while outshooting their opponents 16-11.
Helewka drew Red Deer even just 40 seconds into the period, converting a corner pass from DeBrusk while breaking to the net, and DeBrusk scored a go-ahead — and eventual winning — power-play goal at 4:46, tipping Ivan Nikolishin’s wrist shot from the point past Marchand.
Barely four minutes had elapsed when Helewka potted his second of the night, hammering home a rebound with Huskies forward A.J. Greer off for goaltender interference.
The Rebels’ big line, which played as a unit at times during the regular season, was reunited late in Friday’s game. It was clearly a smart move by Sutter, as the threesome was dominant Sunday.
“The way they controlled the pace and the puck was impressive. They’re offensive type guys and they need to have the puck on their sticks to make plays,” said the Rebels bench boss. “Their puck possession ratio was very good and they did a real good job in their own zone.
“They were really good here tonight and our No. 1 (defenceman) was at the level we need him to play at. Haydn (Fleury) was certainly a lot better tonight, which was huge.”
DeBrusk said the players’ familiarity with each other was a reason for the line’s success Sunday.
“We’ve played together before, especially on the power play. We kind of know how to read off of each other and it worked well tonight,” he said.
Helewka preferred to give his linemates most of the credit.
“The two players I played with tonight are both great players. They see the ice really well and they work hard,” he said. “We just tried to get the chemistry going and they made it easy for me. It’s just great to get a win.”
He also saluted the overflow crowd.
“The fans gave us a lift a couple of times when we needed it,” said Helewka. “When you’re putting the puck in the net it’s great to have a loud crowd cheering you on.
“We fixed a few things from our game a couple of nights ago and we really showed some character.”
Fleury closed out the scoring with three minutes remaining in the game and the Rebels enjoying a two-man advantage, his slapshot from the high slot striking Marchand and trickling over the line.
Marchand faced 38 shots overall while Toth looked at 24 and settled down nicely after allowing the two early goals. His third-period glove save on Alexandre Fortin was particularly huge with the Rebels up 4-2 at the time.
“Their second goal, I was really disappointed with letting that one in, especially at the time when it was 1-0 and such a crucial moment,” said Toth.
“But the biggest thing you can do is just forget about it. I just tried to refocus and reminded myself that everyone makes mistakes here and there and that was mine for that period. I just tried to move on from there.
“The guys started playing really well after we had a bit of a tough start, myself included. From the second period on we took over. I just wanted to be there when I could to help the boys get the win.”
Huskies GM/head coach Gilles Bouchard was not impressed with his club’s performance and the fact they were assessed 11 of the 18 minor penalties called in the contest.
“For sure, we didn’t play the game like we want to play today,” he said. “We didn’t play the Huskies game. The first period was OK and in the second period we watched them (Rebels).
“This kind of game can arrive so we have to learn about this situation. In a short tournament it’s a learning process for the players. It’s a new experience so they have to learn about this.
“We have tomorrow off for the guys to rest and be ready for our Tuesday game (against 1-0 London).”
Bouchard refused to use the fact that the Huskies played the night before — a 5-3 victory over the Brandon Wheat Kings — as an excuse for their performance.
“No, it’s not the reason,” he said. “It’s not the first time we play back to back. We made a couple mistakes and that changed the way we play after.”
The Huskies looked like they were in a track meet through the first two periods of their Saturday contest, but the Rebels nullified their speed 24 hours later.
“We did a real good job of playing with the puck and making sure we picked up guys really good coming back,” said Sutter.
“They’re obviously a very good offensive team, a team that can really create opportunities off the attack. We did a good job of shutting that down for the most part and our goalie made some big saves for us when we needed him.”
The Rebels return to action Wednesday against the 0-1 WHL champion Wheat Kings.
“We know Brandon pretty well and we know how they play,” said Helewka. “Now we have to take care of ourselves these next two days and get ready for Wednesday.”
Notable: The Wheat Kings and Knights tangle today at 6 p.m. . . . Asked what his message was for his players during his first-period timeout, Sutter responded, with a smile: “I told them I loved them.” On a more serious note . . . “We just had to get playing like we can,” he said. “Don’t let the emotion of the game be a negative impact for us. Get back to playing like we can and how we have to play. We know our structure, we know the things we have to do.”