Rebels defeat Tigers in fast-paced final preseason game
Rebels 5 Tigers 3
The Red Deer Rebels closed out their WHL preseason schedule on a positive note Saturday, dowing the visiting Medicine Hat Tigers 5-3 in a battle of hot wheels.
The Rebels’ speed was evident from the opening faceoff and they maintained that pace pretty much throughout the contest that was viewed by roughly 1,000 fans at the Centrium.
“I thought we played pretty well. We played a high tempo game and the things we discussed here in the last couple of days, things we wanted to do tonight . . . I thought we handled them pretty well,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter.
The Tigers, of course, are historically a speedy squad, and yet the Rebels looked every as quick as the Alberta foes in their final exhibition contest, and at times were a step or two faster.
“The pace was good tonight. They (Tigers) had some really good young kids playing tonight too,” said Sutter. “They have some young players who can skate and move too.
“I expected a game like that . . . high tempo and fast.”
The Rebels jumped out to a 2-0 lead before the contest was seven minutes old as Kristian Reichel connected from just inside the blueline during a Red Deer power play and Austin Pratt broke to the net and tucked the puck through the pads of goaltender Michael Bullion.
“In the first period our defence did a good job of moving the puck up the ice quicker and our forwards made plays at a high level,” said Sutter.
Rookie Josh Williams got the visitors on the board at 8:11 of the opening frame, but Mason McCarty restored Red Deer’s two-goal cushion just 26 seconds later when his shot deflected off Tigers defender Dalton Gally and past Bullion.
Williams was credited with his second of the evening — a short-handed marker — when the puck bounced off Rebels forward Reese Johnson and by starting goalie Riley Lamb at 7:19 of the middle frame.
Grayson Pawlenchuk scored the eventual winner late in the period when he cut by a Tigers defender and beat netminder Duncan McGovern — who replaced Bullion six minutes earlier — with a backhand.
That set the stage for Pratt’s second goal of the night. The third-year forward chipped a rebound over McGovern early in the third period to cap a three-point night that included an assist on Pawlenchuk’s tally.
“I’ve been happy with Pratter after the opening weekend,” said Sutter. “The first two (preseason) games I didn’t think he played that well, but I really thought that in Tri-City (during the Americans’ tournament the previous weekend) that he got playing the way he needs to play and the way we expect him to play.
“Tonight he just carried over from the way he was in Tri.”
“I was just moving my feet, finishing every check I could and good things happened,” said Pratt.
The product of Lakeville, Minn., knows he’ll be expected to take on a bigger role this season and the 18-year-old is ready for the challenge.
“It’s a good feeling. It’s nice to know you’re kind of an older guy in the room and that you’re going to be called on when the time comes,” he said.
“I know that I’ll be moved around and put in various spots and on different lines. We’re going to have a great team, four lines deep, and I’m just going to play the way I always do. No matter where I’m at, I’m just going to play the way I have to.”
Jaxon Steele notched the Tigers’ final goal midway through the third period, catching the top of the net behind stopper Lasse Petersen, who turned aside seven of the eight shots he faced while guarding the Rebels net in the final frame.
Lamb made 18 saves through the first 40 minutes. Bullion also made 18 stops and McGovern finished with 16.
The Rebels will host the Edmonton Oil Kings next Saturday in the regular-season opener for both teams.