Rebels impressive in victory over top-ranked Warriors
Rebels 3 Warriors 1
MOOSE JAW — A confident team can be hard to beat, and the Red Deer Rebels suddenly look like a confident team.
The Rebels, who suffered through lengthy losing streaks this season, posted their third straight win — and their fifth in six outings — by knocking off the Moose Jaw Warriors 3-1 Friday.
Red Deer opened a four-game trip with wins over the Prince Albert Raiders and Saskatoon Blades, two teams fighting to get into the playoffs, but Friday’s conquest was extra impressive considering the Warriors are first overall in the WHL and the second-ranked team in the CHL.
The loss was just Moose Jaw’s third at home this season and the first at Mosaic Place since Dec. 15.
“If you play the right way anything can happen,” stated Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “We’re playing with confidence but we’re also playing the right way as far as our team game, and we’re getting goaltending too.
“We’re playing the game the way we like to play, the way we’ve been wanting to play all year . . . just a fast game with hard forechecking.
“It’s good to see the kids getting engaged and our older guys, our best players, are playing like that. They’re dialled in more and playing a team game, the way they need to play.”
Rebels forward Chris Douglas scored at 14:46 of the first period, batting the puck out of the air and past goaltender Brody Willms while stationed at the side of the net, and the 1-0 lead held up until Josh Brook evened the count late in the middle frame.
Brook moved in from the point, accepted a backhand pass from Brett Howden and connected from the low slot.
But that was the last time the Warriors would solve Rebels netminder Riley Lamb, who made 32 saves and was honoured as the game’s first star.
Lamb was indeed excellent — a fabulous glove stab on Vince Loschiavo in the first period and a third-period stop on an in-close redirect were two of his better saves — but this wasn’t a game he stole since Willms was also sharp.
The Moose Jaw stopper was deserving of his second-star selection and finished with 25 saves. He was particularly busy in the second period as the Rebels carried the play but came up short on consecutive scoring opportunities presented to Zak Smith, Kristian Reichel and Dawson Barteaux.
“We had some great shots in the slot, some great chances, in the second period, but we just didn’t capitalize on them,” said Sutter. “But we stuck with it in the third and just kept going.”
The visitors’ persistence paid off when Brandon Hagel, posted to the right of Willms, directed a shot that bounced off a Moose Jaw defender and up and over the Warriors goalie midway through the final period.
Reichel sealed the deal with 1:36 remaining and Willms on the Moose Jaw bench, directing the puck at the empty net and in off Warriors defenceman Kale Clague.
“We’re making sure we’re not giving up a lot of high quality scoring chances and our goaltenders are making saves when we need them,” said Sutter of his club’s recent run of success.
“The kids played hard tonight, they played well. We’ll keep taking it game to game, play the right way and see what happens.”
Notable: Red Deer now has points in each of their last six contests as their lone defeat during that span was an overtime loss to Lethbridge . . . The Rebels were zero-for-two on the power play but also two-for-two on the penalty kill, marking the seventh straight game they haven’t surrendered a man-advantage goal . . . Rebels forward Mason McCarty was selected as the game’s third star . . . The Rebels close out their four-games-in-five-nights jaunt Saturday versus the Brandon Wheat Kings. Red Deer’s next home game is Wednesday against the Calgary Hitmen.