Polei, DeBrusk Star As Rebels Assume Series Lead
By Greg Meachem
Photo by Candice Ward/Calgary Hitmen
Rebels 4 Hitmen 3
CALGARY — The Red Deer Rebels didn’t like their start Sunday afternoon at the Saddledome, but they were over-joyed with their finish.
The Rebels were down 2-0 in the opening period of Game 3 of a WHL Eastern Conference quarter-final versus the Calgary Hitmen, but battled back and — with Jake DeBrusk and Evan Polei each striking for a pair of goals — pulled out a 4-3 win in front of 7,465 fans.
In short, the Rebels persevered while grabbing a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven set.
“We did and that’s probably the best word you could use,” said Red Deer GM/head coach Brent Sutter.
The game didn’t start on the best of terms for the visitors, who were penalized just 1:50 into the contest and then found themselves in serious trouble when Adam Helewka drew a double high-sticking minor less than a minute later.
The Hitmen cashed in when Jordy Stallard, from the bottom of the face-off circle, one-timed a feed from Travis Sanheim past Rebels netminder Trevor Martin at 3:04, but the hosts couldn’t find another goal on the extended power play.
Beck Malenstyn, however, made it 2-0 for Calgary when he buried a rebound from the high slot at 15:27, but Polei responded for the Rebels just 24 seconds later, cashing a rebound of a point shot by Nelson Nogier.
“We get six minutes in penalties in the first two and a half minutes and later we’re down 2-0,” said Sutter. “But we had a really good shift (after Calgary’s second goal) and capitalized right away.
“That gave us some momentum and we played pretty well after that point.”
The Rebels, in fact, drew even when DeBrusk buried a two-on-one pass from Brandon Hagel 2:08 into the second period, then got a go-ahead goal at 1:16 of the final frame as DeBrusk snapped a feed from Michael Spacek past Hitmen netminder Cody Porter.
Jakob Stukel pulled the hosts even with a shot through the pads of Rebels stopper Trevor Martin at 14:02, but DeBrusk found Polei in the high slot with a pinpoint pass and the big winger blew a shot by Porter at 18:16.
The goal, Polei’s third in three games, stood up as the winner.
“They responded well (to Saturday’s 5-2 home-ice loss),” said Sutter, in reference to Polei and DeBrusk, selected as the first and second stars of the game. “We needed big efforts from different players.
“Some guys haven’t had their best games so far in the series and as the series goes on it’s going to get tougher and everyone will have to dial in.”
Martin did his part with a 22-save performance. Porter stopped 14 shots in the close-checking contest.
The win restored the Rebels’ home-ice advantage. Game 4 is set for Friday at the Stampede Corral and the fifth game will be played the following night at the Centrium.
“We had to gain home-advantage back,” said Sutter. “The first three games of a series are very important, now if we can find a way to win Game 4 we’ll certainly be in a good spot.
“The thing is now we don’t play for a few days. We’ll have to get in some good practices and get ready for next Friday in a totally different building.”
Despite the extended layoff prior to Game 5, the Rebels will be in a positive frame of mind through the week.
“They (players) should feel good about themselves,” said Sutter. “We knew we had to play hard and empty the tank here tonight and we did a good job of that.”