Rebels set franchise record with win over Hitmen
Rebels 5 Hitmen 2
The Red Deer Rebels rewrote a franchise record Wednesday evening at the Peavey Mart Centrium.
With a 5-2 Western Hockey League conquest of the Calgary Hitmen, the Rebels set a franchise record with an eighth consecutive win to start the season. The old mark of seven straight out of the gate was established in Red Deer’s Memorial Cup championship campaign of 2000-2001.
“Our guys were ready, they knew what was at stake,” said Rebels head coach Steve Konowalchuk, whose squad jumped out to a 3-1 first period lead.
“I’m really proud of the team, that these guys were able to break the record,” he added. “It started out one game at a time, all of a sudden it (record) was tied and they had to finish it out today. They played well and played hard.
“There’s been a lot of good teams throughout the years here. It’s a real good organization and these guys did it. I’m so proud of them.
“It’s a continuation of last year with such a good group of guys to coach. They work hard every day and they want to be winners. They can sure enjoy this one tonight.”
Ben King notched two first-period goals to lead the Rebels offensively and netminder Kyle Kelsey turned in yet another excellent performance with a 25-save performance.
“It’s pretty unbelievable. That record had been around a long time so it’s pretty cool to be on a team that beats the record,” said King. “I think we have a special group that comes to play every night, that works hard and sticks to the game plans. We did that again tonight and it paid off.”
King opened the scoring three minutes into the contest when he redirected a point shot by Mats Lindgren past netminder Brayden Peters.
After Sean Tschigerl cashed a power play rebound to pull the visitors even five minutes later, the Rebels answered with a man advantage tally of their own when Christoffer Sedoff hammered a shot off the end boards and King one-timed the bounce into a gaping net.
The goals were King’s third and fourth in three games since rejoining the team from the Anaheim Ducks organization. He has also recorded four assists, including a lone helper Wednesday.
“I’ve been happy just getting back into games and back with the group,” he said. “I’m just trying to contribute where I can and help the team win, that’s all. I’m happy where I’m at but I know I can be better.”
King, 20, notched a league-best 52 goals last winter and could certainly flirt with that number in his final WHL season.
“First of all he works hard. Everyone sees his talent level and he’s a leader on and off the ice for us,” said Konowalchuk. “He came back and from Day One he’s been one of the top three to four hardest working guys in practice.
“Coming back from pro that doesn’t always happen, but that shows his focus, his leadership and how he cares about the organization. When your talented players are committed it’s always fun to coach and makes my job a lot easier.”
Kai Uchacz took a pass from Hunter Mayo, broke down the right wing and caught the far corner of the net to give the Rebels a 3-1 lead before the first intermission. Tayem Gislason also assisted on the goal for his first point as a Rebel after joining the team last week from the Prince Albert Raiders.
The Rebels established a three-goal cushion late in the middle frame when Kalan Lind scored from a goalmouth scramble, the puck just trickling over the line.
The Hitmen got a fluke short-handed goal a mere eight seconds into the third period as defenceman Tyson Galloway, from his own side of centre ice, fired a shot that took a quick bounce off a plexiglass stanchion and surprised Kelsey.
The Rebels goalie could hardly be faulted for the goal, and he settled right back in and robbed the Hitmen on a few occasions down the stretch. His sliding save on Oliver Tulk from the side of the net, in particular, was highlight reel material.
“A real nice outing for him,”said Konowalchuk. “He made some big saves when it was 4-2 and with them on the power play. They make a good play on the back door and he’s right there. And there were a few others.
“You can see he has confidence and he’s earned it.”
King was impressed with Kelsey while watching Rebels games via the internet when he was in Southern California. His opinion of the 18-year-old stopper hasn’t changed.
“When I was watching from down there he played unbelievable and now being here and watching him for three games . . . he’s kept us in and made a lot of big saves. Without him I don’t think we’d be where we’re at right now. A lot of credit has to go to him too.”
Jayden Grubbe sealed the deal with an empty-net goal with just over a minute remaining.
Overall, it was a hard fought win over an industrious Hitmen team.
“Our guys were excited to play. They knew Calgary works hard and you have to be ready,” said Konowalchuk. “It’s a tenacious team over there.”
Notable: Peters made 27 saves . . . The three stars: (1) Kelsey, (2) King and (3) Galloway . . . Lind and Grubbe each had a goal and an assist . . . The Rebels are in Medicine Hat Friday to face the Tigers, then host Prince Albert 24 hours later . . . Attendance was 2,709.