Rebels roll past Oil Kings in return from holiday break
Rebels 7 Oil Kings 1
The Rebels wore off their minimal Christmas break rust over the first half of the opening period of Tuesday’s WHL clash with the visiting Edmonton Oil Kings.
From there until the final whistle, the Rebels resembled the proverbial well-oiled machine while getting three goals from Kai Uchacz and rolling to a 7-1 win in front of 4,076 fans at the Peavey Mart Centrium.
The Rebels did have some jump right out of the gate and created more than their share of O-zone pressure, but needed nearly 10 minutes to record an official shot on goal.
Shortly after, Ollie Josephson potted his second goal of the season, deflecting an offering by Arjun Bawa past netminder Kolby Hay, and the Rebels were off to the races.
“Our guys were ready to play, they competed right from the start,” said Rebels head coach Steve Konowalchuk. “Maybe it took a bit to get some momentum, but you could sense we were ready from the start.
“Their minds were into it and when you’re ready to compete it’s easier to play.”
Matteo Fabrizi doubled the lead with a power play tally at the 13:45 mark, his wrister from the point beating Hay high to the blocker side. Craig Armstrong cashed a two-on-one pass from Jace Isley three minutes later.
The third goal was preceded by a tremendous save by Rhett Stoesser, who had a terrific outing, stopping 34 shots as the game’s third star.
“It’s 2-0 and Stoesser makes a huge save for us. We go down and score to make it 3-0,” said Konowalchuk. “A 2-0 game can be a different game, you’re battling a bit more.
“He (Stoesser) battled, his compete level was contagious for our guys and they battled in front of him.”
The Rebels outscored their guests 2-1 in the middle frame, with Uchacz potting both Red Deer goals.
The 19-year-old centre scored on the power play at 11:39 of the period with a quick release — from the left circle — of a feed from Christoffer Sedoff, who was the recipient of a pass from Jayden Grubbe.
The Oil Kings responded with their lone goal of the contest four minutes later as Luke Robson converted his own rebound from a scramble.
Uchacz then added another man-advantage tally before the period was out. Grubbe’s shot from the high slot was turned away by Hay, but Uchacz buried the rebound.
The Rebels added two more goals in the third period, with Carson Birnie cashing in from the edge of the crease and Uchacz sniping his 26th of the season, again on the power play, with just over four minutes left.
Jhett Larson, from the corner, made a nifty backhand pass to Talon Brigley who in turn fed Uchacz, who had a open net.
“We wanted to get a good start to the second half (of the season) so everyone came ready to play,” said Uchacz. “I don’t think we had one passenger out their tonight so it was a full team win.”
Uchacz, now with 26 tallies on the season putting him one back of league leader Connor Bedard, is on pace to score more than 50 goals this season. Or could he have 60 in mind?
“I’m just going to keep shooting and see where I can go with it,” he stated. “It’s been really good and hopefully I can just keep ‘er going.”
The game was the Rebels’ first since Dec. 17 and clearly the Christmas break didn’t take the edge off their aggression and compete level.
“Everyone looked like they took some time during the break to take care of themselves,” said Konowalchuk. “They skated well and competed real hard for each other.
“The break is good if you use it the right way. We were playing soild hockey heading into the break and picked it up today to where it needs to be.
“They were blocking shots and all the little things that give you the puck more and give you a chance to score goals.”
Added Uchacz: “The break was good, we could take our minds off the game and kind of reset. We had a really good first half. We had the break to reset and try and do it again the second half.”
The Rebels dominated in the special teams department, going four-for-six on the power play and five-for-five on the penalty kill, which was tested in the first half of the final period with three straight infractions.
“It’s hard to score five-on-five for every team, so special teams are huge. It’s good to execute in that area,” said Konowalchuk.
Notable: Uchacz and Sedoff, who recorded three assists, were selected as the games’ first and second stars . . . Grubbe picked up two helpers to give him 37 points (9g,28a) on the season. Sedoff upped his points total to 33 (3g,27a) . . . Hay made 31 saves . . . The Rebels improved to 23-6-1-3 while the Oil Kings fell to 4-29-1-0 . . . Red Deer will host the Calgary Hitmen Thursday, then visit the Oil Kings the following night and the Hitmen on New Year’s Day.