Zablocki and linemates erupt as Rebels rock Royals
Rebels 6 Royals 2
Would the real Red Deer Rebels please stand up?
One night after falling 3-2 to the visiting Prince Albert Raiders — although admitting carrying the play through most of the WHL contest — the Rebels rocked the Victoria Royals, a far superior team, 6-2 Saturday.
Quite simply, the hosts were the hungrier, more passionate side right from the opening faceoff and were deserving victors while out-shooting their guests 44-23 before an audience of 5,557 at the Centrium.
The spotlight shone particularly bright on the forward unit of Lane Zablocki, Brandon Hagel and Michael Spacek, who combined for five goals and 15 points. But virtually every player contributed in the impressive victory.
“It was pretty solid right from start to finish,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter of his team’s performance. “There was urgency with our five-on-five play, we played hard.
“With our specialty teams, there was more emotion and intensity on them. I liked our puck movement and we just did a better job of generating more off our power play, and our penalty kill was really good too.
“But five-on-five we were a good team tonight.”
As for the explosive line that hogged the limelight . . .
“They all have skill and if they just play the right way, play the game with tempo and with pace and be responsible . . . they’re a skilled group, they can make plays,” said Sutter.
“They can do things with pucks that other skilled players can do but some others can’t. That line was really good. Obviously they scored some really important, timely goals for us. It was a big night for them.”
Zablocki opened the scoring with the first of his three goals on the evening 3:56 into the game, cashing a feed from Brandon Hagel from in tight. But the visitors responded in short order on a point shot from Scott Walford that beat netminder Lasse Petersen through heavy traffic.
Hagel restored Red Deer’s lead at 13:28 of the opening period with a one-timer off a power-play pass from Michael Spacek, and Zablocki increased the margin to 3-1 with the lone goal of the middle frame. The feisty forward went to the net and redirected a pass from Hagel.
The Royals cut the deficit to a single goal at 5:55 of the third period on a short-handed goal from Tyler Soy. The Victoria forward connected on a breakaway after blocking a slapshot by Colton Bobyk at the Royals blueline.
On another night, a goal of that nature might have deflated the Rebels. But on this night they shrugged off the misfortune.
“It was tough to give up that goal, but we’d played so good before that and we knew that if we kept playing that way good things were going to keep on happening,” said Zablocki.
Indeed, the Rebels rocked the rest of the way. Adam Musil jammed home a loose puck from a scramble just under five minutes later, Zablocki scored on another goalmouth play and Brandon Hagel rounded out the third-period onslaught with Red Deer enjoying a two-man advantage.
“We played a full 60 minutes, I think that was the biggest difference,” said Zablocki, who had an assist to go along with his hat trick. “We finished checks, played hard both offensively and defensively and it paid off.”
The Wetaskiwin native expressed his gratitude for his linemates.
“It’s unbelievable. Those are two highly skilled guys, so when the opportunity comes I just try and get to the net and get open for them and good things will happen,” he said.
True to form, all three of Zablocki’s goals — upping his season total to 15 — were scored from close range, with no fear for his physical well-being.
“Since peewee and atom I’ve always scored my goals from around the crease, anywhere around the net,” he said. “I know my role, I know where to go and it’s paying off.”
It was the third game in three nights for the Royals, who posted earlier wins at Edmonton and Calgary, but the visitors still displayed — albeit sporadically — an up-tempo style of play.
“They’re a really good team, their top two lines have some significant skill,” said Sutter. “Their team plays the right way and obviously Dave (head coach Lowry) and his staff do a great job of coaching them.
“They’re a well-coached team and you have to be disciplined against them. You have to keep your turnovers to a minimum because they’ll generate stuff on transitions really quickly as you saw tonight. At different times they moved the puck up the ice quickly.
“They play with pace, so you have to be prepared to play them and you have to play the right way against them.”
Just notes: Lasse Petersen made 21 saves en route to his 11th win of the season, while Royals netminder Griffen Outhouse blocked 38 shots . . . The three stars were (1) Zablocki, (2) Hagel, who had four helpers to go with his two goals, and (3) Spacek, who contributed five assists . . . The Rebels are idle until next week when they host the Prince George Cougars and Regina Pats Friday and Saturday.