Rebels finally rewarded in extra time with upset win over Rockets
Rebels 3 Rockets 2 (OT)
It’s been a week of firsts for the Red Deer Rebels.
On Tuesday, the Rebels beat the Medicine Hat Tigers 4-1 for their initial WHL win at home since late October, and on Saturday snapped an 11-game losing streak in games that exceed 60 minutes.
Kristian Reichel connected at 2:46 of overtime to push the Rebels past the Western Conference leading Kelowna Rockets 3-2 before 4,644 fans at the Centrium.
Reichel was the extra-time hero but netminder Ethan Anders was THE man for the Rebels, turning aside 41 shots.
“The last games we won in OT were back to back against Regina and Spokane. It was nice to have that feeling again,” said Anders, reflecting back on Oct. 27 and 28 wins, the second triumph being the Rebels’ last on home ice until Saturday.
“It was good. We played really hard for the whole 60 (minutes) and it was nice to come out with the win.”
Anders had no problems with his heavy workload.
“It was nice to make that many saves. I had to keep moving so it was good that I got that many shots, for sure,” he said. “At first when I got out there I had a good feel for things and by probably halfway through the first period I was really into it.
“I could (follow the puck) through traffic and the defence did a really good job of blocking shots when I couldn’t see them.”
Josh Tarzwell notched a short-handed goal to give the Rebels a 2-1 lead 1:25 into the third period, chasing down a puck in the offensive zone and then beating Rockets netminder Cole Tisdale with a low shot from the high slot.
With Tisdale on the bench in favour of an extra attacker, the visitors applied major pressure through the final two minutes and it paid off when Kole Lind potted an equalizer at 19:27.
Rebels forward Brandon Hagel blocked a shot and the puck bounced directly to Lind, who showed off his baseball skills by batting the puck out of the air and past Anders from the bottom of the left circle.
“It was a good block by Hages and a really unfortunate bounce,” said Anders, who was determined to shake off the late marker. “I was like ‘OK, it’s 2-2, we can still win this in overtime.
“It was still a winnable game so I wasn’t too deflated.”
Dawson Barteaux started the winning play, stepping out from behind the Red Deer net and sending a stretch pass to Hagel at the Kelowna blueline. Hagel and Reichel moved in on a two-on-one break and the latter buried a perfect feed from his teammate.
“Our goalie played well and we capitalized on some opportunities,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “We got something to go our way in overtime. In the past we’d get the one chance and miss it and the puck would move down and go in our net.
“We played hard tonight, we competed hard. It’s obviously a very good team we played here. I thought our first period was really good, our second period wasn’t as good and then we got playing better again in the third.
“It’s nice to get a win against a very good team and to be rewarded in overtime.”
The Rockets snapped a scoreless tie at 14:41 of the second period when Leif Mattson knocked down a bouncing puck in the low slot, then whirled around and whipped it past Anders.
Mason McCarty evened the count just under three minutes later, pouncing on a turnover in the Rebels end, dashing down the right side and beating Tisdale with a rising shot to the blocker side.
McCarty, with his team leading 25th of the season, set the stage for a thrilling third period in which Tarzwell’s early goal — his second as a Rebel — nearly stood up as the winner.
“As the game went on he got better and better,” Sutter said of Tarzwell, a Red Deer native who was acquired from the Lethbridge Hurricanes in December. “The second and third periods were his best periods. Even though our team in the second wasn’t as good I thought Tarz was one of our better forwards.”
Tarzwell’s goal was his second in a three-game span.
“Again, he’s getting rewarded now for playing the game more the right way and the way I’d like to see him play,” said Sutter. “He’s capitalized on some chances, which is huge. He was getting them before but pucks weren’t going in the net.
“I like him better as a winger. We were using him at centre ice but his natural position is wing and he seems to be more comfortable there.”
The Rebels were zero-for-two on the power play but also four-for-four on the penalty kill, with a short-handed tally to boot.
“Our penalty kill has been good the last three games,” said Sutter. “We changed some things on it, some things that needed to be done differently. We addressed it and it seems to be working.”
Notable: Tisdale made 19 saves for the Rockets . . . Selected as the game’s three stars were (1) Anders, (2) Tarzwell and (3) Lind . . . The Rebels close out a seven-game homestand Sunday against the visiting Lethbridge Hurricanes. The game starts at 5 p.m.