Rebels win special teams battle in clutch Game 3 victory over Wheat Kings
Rebels 3 Wheat Kings 1
BRANDON — The Red Deer Rebels’ special teams were extra special Tuesday evening and as a result they have a 2-1 lead in their WHL Eastern Conference quarter-final series with the Brandon Wheat Kings.
The Rebels got power play goals from Liam Keeler and Arshdeep Bains and went six-for-six on the penalty kill in a 3-1 victory before 4,173 fans at Westoba Place.
“They (Wheat Kings) do a good job in shot lanes against the power play and you have to find a way to get the puck to the net. Our guys did that tonight,” said Rebels head coach Steve Konowalchuk.
“It was good to see and we got some timely kills as well.”
The Wheaties led 1-0 after one period on a late goal from Logen Hammett, whose shot from the top of the left circle caught the top of the net behind goaltender Chase Coward.
The score never changed through the majority of the second period before Liam Keeler tipped home a shot by Ben King at the 18:43 mark with Brandon star Ridly Greig in the penalty box.
With Greig off for interference early in the third period, Bains notched a go-ahead marker for the Rebels, his shot glancing off the skate of Brandon defenceman Mason Ward and between the pads of netminder Ethan Kruger.
Ben King then all but sealed the deal with a little less than five minutes remaining when he took a drop pass from Bains and beat Kruger to the blocker side with a laser.
“Our guys got behind but they kept battling and persevering and keeping their emotions in check. It was good to see,” said Konowalchuk.
The Wheat Kings have yet to score a man advantage goal in the series, going zero-for-17 over the three games, and failed to cash in on a late six-on-four with Bains serving a delay of game penalty and Kruger on the bench.
“The guys are working hard (on the penalty kill),” said Konowalchuk. “Vandy (Jackson van de Leest) and Seds (Christoffer Sedoff) do a good job on the back end and we roll six forwards so they can play with energy and pay attention to detail.
“It’s tough though because the other team has a good power play. Our guys have to play smart and so far they have.”
Of course, the goaltender is always a key to a successful penalty kill and Coward was just that Tuesday, turning aside 32 shots and earning second star status with a stellar performance.
“Cowie made some good saves. You can’t have a good penalty kill without a lot of good saves,” said Konowalchuk.
The Rebels regained home ice advantage in the best-of-seven series, but the job is far from over.
Game 4 is set for Wednesday at Westoba Place.
“They’re going to battle hard, we know that,” Konowalchuk said of the Wheat Kings. “We have to be able to do the same.”
Notable: The Rebels were two-for-six on the power play . . . Kruger made 29 saves in a losing cause . . . The Rebels swept the three stars, with Bains, who had two assists to go with his winning goal, taking first star honours and King third . . . Defenceman Jace Weir, with two assists, joined Bains and King (1-1) as the Rebels’ multi-point players . . . Game 5 will be played Friday at the Peavey Mart Centrium. Sixth and seventh games, if needed, will go May 1 in Brandon and May 3 in Red Deer.