Rebels rally around netminder Coward to post home-ice win over Broncos
Rebels 4 Broncos 2
The Red Deer Rebels showed the true spirt of teamsmanship Friday night at the Peavey Mart Centrium.
A gaffe by Rebels netminder Chase Coward allowed the Swift Current Broncos to pull within a goal roughly six minutes into the third period. But Coward’s teammates shrugged it off and went right back to work, keeping the visitors at bay and sealing a 4-2 WHL win on a short-handed, empty-net breakaway goal by Liam Keeler.
Head coach Steve Konowalchuk liked the way Coward’s mates picked him up after the netminder left his net and played the puck right onto the stick of Matthew Ward, who scored short-handed into a yawning cage.
“That’s important,” said Konowalchuk. “There are mistakes made every game, there are bounces every game. We have to understand that, we have to be prepared to have one-goal or tie games in the third period and just be OK with that, be willing to win them late or win however you can.
“They got a bounce or a break but our guys battled back and did what they had to do.”
The Rebels carried the play much of the evening, outshooting their guests 40-24 overall while engaging the Broncos in an often physical and fast-paced contest.
The victory came on the heels of Red Deer’s 5-2 win Tuesday night in Swift Current.
“We just kind of continued on from our last game against them,” said Rebels captain Jayden Grubbe, who had a team-high six shots at Broncos netminder Isaac Poulter and potted his eighth goal of the season.
“We came out and played our game . . . keep skating, get in behind their D and make them play down low with us. That’s the strength of our team.”
Following a 0-0 first period, Grubbe opened the scoring five minutes into the middle frame, ripping a shot past Poulter from the low slot after a nifty down low passing play that involved Christoffer Sedoff and Arshdeep Bains, who got the primary assist.
Grubbe is now on a scoring streak after potting his seventh in Tuesday’s win.
“I haven’t really thought about it,” said the New York Rangers prospect. “For me, I focus more on being physical, using my speed. I got a couple good bounces the last two games and now it’s starting to come.”
Kalan Lind extended Red Deer’s lead with a power-play tally at 8:06 of the second period, banking a shot off a Broncos defenceman and under Poulter, but Raphael Pelletier got one back for the visitors just over five minutes later on a redirection of a point shot by Josh Filmon.
Ben King restored the Rebels’ two-goal cushion early in the third period. Blake Gustafson moved down from the point and found King on the doorstep with a perfect pass, and the veteran center promptly cashed his league-best 30th of the season.
Ward took advantage of Coward’s mistake shortly after, but that was as close as the Broncos would get.
Konowalchuk wasn’t surprised the Broncos were able to put up a decent right against the Rebels.
“Swift Current is playing good hockey, desperate hockey right now. They’re battling for a playoff spot,” he said. “They played hard and they played a smart game, but our guys were willing to grind, for the most part it was a grinding effort.
“We hit a little adversity but we dug in, kept playing and got two points.”
Konowalchuk said he expects to experience similar battles over the final two months and change of the regular season.
“There’s not going to be too many easy games the rest of the way,” he noted. “Teams are fighting for something, teams are dialled in with their systems and their structure and you have to fight for every puck.”
Notable: The Rebels, who host the Lethbridge Hurricanes Saturday, pulled to within two points of the Central Division leading Edmonton Oil Kings, who have a game in hand . . . Red Deer was one-for-seven on the power play, the Broncos zero-for-three . . . The recorded attendance was 2,588 . . . The three stars: (1) Grubbe, (2) King, who had a goal and assist, and (3) Gustafson . . . Forward Landon Ferraro, who played with the Rebels from 2007 to 2010, is among five former WHL players named to Hockey Canada’s 25-man roster for the upcoming Winter Games in Beijing, China. The others are forwards Adam Cracknell (Kootenay ICE, 2002-2006), Adam Tambellini (Calgary Hitmen, 2014-2015) and Jordan Weal (Regina Pats, 2007-2012), and defenceman Tyler Wotherspoon (Portland Winterhawks, 2009-2013).