Rebels pull out OT win in Calgary thanks to Ungar’s goaltending, timely penalty kills
Rebels 3 Hitmen 2 (OT)
Good teams find a way to win.
That’s a well-worn cliche and it certainly rang true Sunday afternoon at the Scotiabank Saddledome, where the Red Deer Rebels were widely outshot yet posted a 3-2 WHL overtime victory over the Calgary Hitmen in the final pre-Christmas game for both teams.
There were bright spots for the visitors, and thankfully one was the play of goaltender Connor Ungar, who made 47 saves.
Another plus was the Rebels’ penalty kill, which allowed two goals but came up huge late in the second period when Kalan Lind and Christoffer Sedoff were assessed double minors for cross checking and boarding, and again in the third when Lind was dealt a charging major and game misconduct.
The game was decided when Ben King broke out on a two-on-one with Arshdeep Bains in the first minute of extra time. Instead of passing, King waited for the Calgary defenceman to commit, stepped around the sliding rearguard and tucked the puck under netminder Ethan Buenaventura.
“There was some character there that dug in and got the job done,” said Rebels head coach Steve Konowalchuk. “While it wasn’t as good as we’d like to play, there was some good character on the team and you have to win some like that.”
The Rebels, who never trailed in the contest opened the scoring on an early first-period power play goal from Bains, who tipped the puck home at the edge of the crease following a back-door pass from King.
Red Deer scored with a two-man advantage after Hitmen defenceman Keagan Slaney got the boot along with a kneeing major in the game’s first minute and Blake Heward took a cross checking penalty just under two minutes later.
But the Rebels were assessed the majority of the infractions through the remainder of the game, allowing Brandon Whynott to notch a power-play equalizer late in the first and Blake Allan to connect with a man advantage at 14:47 of the second frame.
Allan’s goal followed a Rebels’ power play goal of their own, off the stick of Jayden Grubbe roughly two minutes before. King fed Bains with a rink-wide feed from down low, and Bains’ shot towards the net glanced off the skate of Grubbe and into the Calgary cage.
The third period was scoreless, thanks to Ungar and Red Deer’s stellar penalty kill, setting the stage for overtime.
The Rebels were two-for-four on the power play and the Hitmen two-for-nine in the extremely physical outing.
“There was an awful lot of penalties in this game which took the flow out of the game,” said Konowalchuk. “We have to be better there. This is the first time in awhile we’ve had to talk about it because guys have been good.
“You can’t give a team that many power plays. It was a good job by our penalty kill to get through. Ungar played well in net but it’s hard to get into any kind of rythmn like that.
“The penalties just kept on coming but we got through and got rewarded with the win.”
With the world junior championship at the Peavey Mart Centrium Dec. 26 to Jan. 5, the Rebels’ next four games are on the road, starting Dec. 28 against the Saskatoon Blades.
“It’s always nice to go on a little break with a win,” said Konowalchuk. “It feels a lot better for sure.”
Red Deer will visit the Prince Albert Raiders the following night and on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 will face the Moose Jaw Warriors and Brandon Wheat Kings.
The Rebels’ next home game is Jan. 7 versus the Edmonton Oil Kings.
Notable: Attendance was 4,799 . . . The three stars: (1) Ungar, (2) Allan and (3) King . . . Ungar, who boosted his record to 11-2-1-0 was rock solid in the Rebels net. His best save was a diving stop on Zac Funk in the first period. Buenaventura had a easy night at the other end, facing only 16 shots . . . Rebels forward Kai Uchacz suffered a lower body injury when he was kneed by Slaney. He played two shifts shortly after but none the rest of the way . . . King had a three-point night with two goals and a single helper. Bains (1-1) and Sedoff (0-2) each had two points.
📽️ SAVE OF THE NIGHT 📽️
— The WHL (@TheWHL) December 20, 2021