Rebels narrow loss to Oil Kings has silver lining as Bains clinches WHL scoring title
Oil Kings 3 Rebels 2
He will be the lone recipient of the Bob Clarke Trophy as the WHL’s scoring leader this season, but if he had his druthers Arshdeep Bains would share it with his Red Deer Rebels teammates.
Bains scored a highlight-reel goal and added an assist Saturday in a 3-2 loss to the Edmonton Oil Kings at the Peavey Mart Centrium and finished the regular season with 112 points, seven more than runner-up and linemate Ben King.
“It’s pretty special. It’s kind of a team award I’d say because of all the players who have helped me out on the ice,” said the Rebels ace winger, who had 43 goals to go with a league-high 69 assists this season.
“All my teammates, they’re a big reason why I’m getting the opportunity to win that award. Ben was right there too and he could have win that easily, so it’s a lot of aspects. It’s not just my work but I’m proud that I got the opportunity to win it.”
Bains and King were clearly the best one-two combo in the league this winter, with the latter, who was presented with the team’s MVP award prior to the game, a good bet to finish with the most goals in the regular season with 52. Connor Bedard of the Regina Pats had 49 with one game left.
“It was a remarkable season for those guys,” said Rebels head coach Steve Konowalchuk. “I don’t how you give one the MVP over the other, flip a coin.
“They complement each other so well, they’ve been so good for us as linemates and on the power play. They’re real leaders on the team and they accepted the challenge to be top guys.”
The Rebels gave the visitors all they could handle in front of 4,446 fans Saturday, rallying for a pair of unanswered third-period goals before falling just short in a game that featured a total of 17 power plays, with Edmonton going one-for-nine and Red Deer one-for-eight.
“The guys battled hard in the third period and gave ourselves a chance,” said Konowalchuk. “It was certainly a different game with all the penalties by both teams, there wasn’t a lot of flow.”
The Oil Kings led 2-0 after one period on goals by Carter Souch, who came out of the corner and snuck the puck under netminder Chase Coward, and Carter Kowalyk, who back-handed home a loose puck just outside of the crease.
Jake Neighbours made it 3-0 at 7:53 of the second period with a laser from the right circle with the Rebels short-handed. But that was it for the Oil Kings who were outshot 31-21 on the evening and were clearly outplayed in the final frame.
Liam Keeler started the Red Deer comeback 75 seconds into the third when he caught goaltender Kolby Hay leaning the wrong way and slipped the puck in from the side of the net.
Bains then notched a glorious goal with eight minutes remaining, striding past one defender and cutting wide on another before catching the far top corner of the net.
The rally, however, fell one goal short.
“There was a lot of emotion on both benches, especially for a last game of the season,” said Konowalchuk, whose club will face the Brandon Wheat Kings in an Eastern Conference quarter-final starting next weekend.
“We pushed hard in the third and now we’ll put it behind us. I don’t think it’s a game you spend a lot of time dissecting.”
Konowalchuk touched on the Rebels’ regular season accomplishments following the game. The club finished third in the conference while posting an impressive 45 wins.
“I’m very happy for the players. It was a real good regular season and they worked hard every day,” said the Rebels bench boss. “It’s an easy team to coach because they came to work every day wanting to get better and the guys want to build on that.”
It was the final WHL regular season for 20-year-old Bains, who signed with the Vancouver Canucks in March and will turn pro next fall.
“It’s definitely the best year of my five here, the most winning team we’ve had,” he said. “It’s really special to turn it around from last year when we had only a few wins.
“Now we’re top three in our division. It’s super special that we have this team and I’m excited to see what we can do in the playoffs.”
Notable: Coward stopped 13 of 16 shots before being replaced by Connor Ungar at the start of the third period. Ungar turned aside all five shots he faced. Hay made 29 saves at the other end . . . In keeping with a league tradition, the Rebels overage players —Bains, Keeler and Jackson van de Leest — were selected as the game’s three stars . . . As well as accepting the team’s Bearcom Most Valuable Player Award prior to the game, King also picked up the Three-Star Award. Christoffer Sedoff won Defenceman of the Year honours, while Jace Weir was named the Pattison Media Rookie of the Year. Blake Gustafson was presented with the Rob Rae Clothiers Plus/Minus Award, while Bains was the Hampton Inn and Suites Leading Scorer Award winner and shared the Rebels Players’ Award with Keeler, Kai Uchacz was the recipient of the Darcy Robinson Most Underrated Player award and Joel Sexsmith picked up the ATB Financial Humanitarian Award . . . The Rebels open their best-of-seven series with Brandon next Friday and Saturday at the Centrium.