Rebels’ special teams shine in Game 4 win
Rebels 6 Hitmen 1
CALGARY — The Red Deer Rebels’ special teams were downright special Wednesday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
The Rebels erupted for three power play goals — two off the stick of Ben King — and a pair of short-handed tallies in a 6-1 rout of the Calgary Hitmen.
The visitors grabbed a 3-1 lead in the WHL Eastern Conference Quarterfinal and can close out the best-of-seven series Friday at the Peavey Mart Centrium.
Red Deer’s penalty killing units were outstanding, erasing 10 of 11 Calgary power plays. Rebels head coach Steve Konowalchuk was obviously pleased with the outcome, but not with his team’s lack of discipline and the manner in which the game unfolded.
“It was frustrating with the penalties. There wasn’t a lot of flow to the game,” he said. “It’s still an area we need to improve.”
On the plus side, the Rebels finally clicked on the power play after going zero-for-16 through the first three games of the series. Red Deer finished three-for-seven with a man advantage.
“I thought the urgency to shoot, the urgency to win puck battles was better,” said Konowalchuk.”We had chances (earlier in the series) and the puck didn’t go in for us.”
After a scoreless opening period, the Hitmen drew first blood at 5:40 of the middle frame with a power play marker credited to Ethan Moore. Rebels goaltender Kyle Kelsey directed the puck into the net while trying to scoop it off the goal line.
The Rebels replied just under three minutes later with a man advantage tally of their own, King taking a feed from Mats Lindgren and beating goalie Brayden Peters with a one-timer from the left circle.
The hosts were back on the power play in short order, but Ollie Josephson struck with the eventual winner almost instantly. Captain Jayden Grubbe, an obvious choice as the game’s first star, won a three-on-one battle along the half boards and fed Josephson, who swooped in alone and fired a shot high glove side.
Jhett Larson added another short-handed goal off a two-on-one pass from Grubbe with 1:29 remaining in the period, and Hunter Mayo upped the count to 4-1 a minute later with a rising shot from just inside the blueline.
“The short-handed goals were huge,” said Konowalchuk. “It’s a tie hockey game and we get the next two short-handed goals. That’s huge.”
Another @Rebelshockey shortie?
— The WHL (@TheWHL) April 6, 2023
The Rebels added a pair of man-advantage markers in the third period, with King scoring with a high shot from the left circle, off yet another feed from Lindgren, and Kai Uchacz getting credit for the sixth goal after his pass attempt across the crease glanced off the stick of Hitmen defender Tyson Galloway.
The Rebels have the Hitmen on the ropes, but Konowalchuk stressed that the job isn’t yet complete while looking ahead to Friday’s clash.
“Stay out of the penalty box and have the same focus as we did in Game 1,” he said of the approach the Rebels must take. “It’s just another game, we have to go play the same way and stick to the process . . . a one shift at a time mentality.”
Grubbe led the WHL with 5 shorthanded assists this season. He had two in the second period tonight.
Lindgren one point shy of equaling his season high (and team record tying) five point game in Brandon
King with two of the three Rebels power play tallies https://t.co/oZEuylb6z5
— TROY GILLARD (@Troy_Gillard) April 6, 2023
Notable: Kelsey made 36 saves while Peters stopped 33 of 39 shots before being replaced by Ethan Buenaventura following Red Deer’s final goal. Buenaventura stopped the only two shots he faced . . . The three stars: (1) Grubbe, who had three assists, (2) Lindgren, who picked up four helpers, and (3) King (2g,1a). . . Calgary captain Riley Fiddler-Schultz missed his second-straight game while Sean Tschigerl was a late scratch . . . A sixth game, if needed, will go Sunday in Calgary and a seventh contest, if required, will be played Tuesday at the Centrium.