Rebels tie WHL record with shutout of visiting Giants
Rebels 4 Giants 0
And the beat goes on.
The Red Deer Rebels improved to 12-0-0-0 Friday night at the Peavey Mart Centrium with a 4-0 win over the Vancouver Giants, in the process tying a WHL record for consecutive victories to open a season.
The Rebels were minus the services of some key contributors, but were the better team from the outset, displaying a dogged work ethic second to none.
No Kyle Kelsey (ill), no Ben King (injury), no Ollie Josephson (injury), no Mats Lindgren (ill).
“I liked the perseverance, they came ready to play,” Rebels head coach Steve Konowalchuk said of his charges. “We had a real good first period, the guys were skating and doing things they needed to.”
Indeed, the Rebels were first to the puck throughout the majority of the opening frame, outshooting their guests 15-5 but notching just one goal.
Jhett Larson provided the marker, stepping around a Giants defenceman and then netminder Jesper Vikman before tucking the puck home. Kalan Lind did the grunt work, winning a puck battle in the corner and feeding Larson in front.
From there, the home side added a second period goal and put the game away with two more in the third, earning a vocal post-game ovation from the 4,065 fans on hand.
“It was a tight game still after the first period, one of those games where you have to stick with it mentally and keep playing the right way,” said Konowalchuk. “I thought our guys played with pace and energy, and for the most part followed the game plan and eventually got rewarded.”
Talon Brigley potted the Rebels’ second goal late in the middle frame, his shot finding its way to the goal line and then into the net with help from Vikman, who inadvertently knocked it over the line.
Jace Isley all but put the game on ice roughly 12 minutes into the third period when he connected from the high slot with a quick release of a pass from Brigley.
The Giants had a chance to get on the board with a later power play, but Kai Uchacz tipped the puck past a Giants defender at the Rebels blueline and scored on a short-handed breakaway, ripping a shot high to Vikman’s blocker side.
Vikman finished with 29 saves while Rhett Stoesser, starting his third straight game with Kelsey in sick bay, stopped all 18 shots he faced.
It was, quite simply, yet another defensive game by the Rebels.
“There are so many things that go into it,” said Konowalchuk. “Obviously we have good defencemen, but it’s (also) managing the puck, working hard without the puck, it’s backchecking . . . all the little things that help you not give up shots and also score goals.
“Our guys are working hard in all those areas, taking pride in it.”
Stoesser posted his second shutout of the season while improving his record to 4-0-0, his goals-against average to 1.25 and his save percentage to .938.
“Right now Kelsey hasn’t been going and he (Stoesser) has stepped up and played well. Good for him,” said Konowalchuk.
The Rebels summoned Chase Wutzke from the midget AAA Saskatoon Contacts to serve as Stoesser’s back-up, while the team also used midget AAA forward Escalus Burlock for a second straight game. In addition, forward Carson Bernie got into his third contest of the season and picked up an assist.
“We’ve had a lot of guys step up, like Stoesser in net obviously, Bernie coming in and playing the way he’s been playing, Burlock coming up too,” said Brigley, who had two assists to go with his goal and was selected as the game’s first star.
“They’ve been playing really well for us. It’s good to get good efforts from those guys as well.”
Brigley credited his linemates, Isley and Jayden Grubbe, for playing a big role in his productive night.
“Playing with Grubber and Isles, they do a lot of work for me,” said Brigley. “Two big guys working down low in the corner, all props to them. They were on the puck all night.”
The Rebels can set a league record for out-of-the gate triumphs with a win over the host Edmonton Oil Kings Sunday.
“We’re always thinking about it, it’s always in the back of our heads,” said Brigley. “But we’re just going out there to play our game, we just want to see how far we can take it.
“I think we’re not done yet. We want to keep going until a team can step up on us and try and take us down.”
Notable: Sunday’s game in the provincial capital will be the first of nine consecutive road games for the Rebels with the CFR Finals Rodeo and Agri-Trade taking over the Centrium starting next week . . . Larson and Stoesser were named second and third stars . . . An oddity: Three goals were called back in the contest, including two for the Giants, who were cancelled for goaltender interference and an offside challenge by Konowalchuk. Red Deer’s disallowed goal was for goalie interference.