Rebels With 6-1 Win Over Lethbridge
By Greg Meachem
Photo by Rob Wallator
Rebels 6 Hurricanes 1
Their hopes of catching the Lethbridge Hurricanes for first place in the WHL’s Central Division are slim, at best, but the Red Deer Rebels sent their southern Alberta foes a message Saturday.
After falling 6-1 Friday in Lethbridge, the Rebels turned the tables 24 hours later and thumped the visitors by the exact same score in front of 6,492 fans at the Centrium.
The win averted a season sweep at the hands of the ‘Canes, who prevailed in the first five meetings.
“Everybody in the locker room felt that they (Hurricanes) had some billboard material twice in the last two days and obviously that fired us up,” said Rebels forward Conner Bleackley, who picked up three assists and engaged Red Deer native Andrew Nielsen in a third-period scrap.
“It sends a message that we’ve always believed in ourselves. It’s obviously been a tough stretch against Lethbridge but tonight we proved we could beat them and for 60 minutes we were the better team.
“They hadn’t seen the real Rebels and tonight was a real good sign.”
Putting the ‘Canes on the power play is not advisable at the best of times, but the Rebels played half of the opening period short-handed, allowed a mere 11 shots on goal and went into the intermission with a 1-0 lead.
Colton Bobyk gave the Rebels a lead they wouldn’t relinquish 6:31 into the contest, his point shot beating a screened Lethbridge netminder Jayden Sittler to the short side.
After getting out of the opening frame with a narrow lead, the Rebels piled on in the middle stanza, potting five goals in the first 11 minutes to take a 6-1 advantage into the final 20 minutes.
“After killing five penalties in the first period it was just a matter of time before the goals started going in,” said Bleackley. “It came down to just playing the right way, like the coaches are always preaching.
“This was probably our best win of the season so far.”
Jake DeBrusk notched the eventual winner one minute into the middle frame. Stationed at the side of the net, DeBrusk swatted the puck past Sittler after Haydn Fleury’s volley from the blueline bounced off the end boards and into the danger area.
Defenceman Kayle Doetzel made it 3-0 just 62 seconds later, busting in from the point and ripping a shot over a fallen Sittler, who had stopped Adam Musil from close range.
The Rebels finally went to the power play when Brayden Burke was sent off for goaltender interference. Adam Helewka notched Red Deer’s fourth goal as the infraction was winding down, ripping a shot off the post and in.
That spelled the end — temporarily — for Sittler, but replacement Stuart Skinner surrendered a goal on the first shot he faced as Fleury connected from the high slot.
Brandon Hagel rounded out the second-period explosion with a power-play tally at 10:41.
Tyler Wong accounted for the Hurricanes’ lone goal just 22 seconds later, busting in alone following a Red Deer turnover at centre ice and spoiling Trevor Martin’s shutout bid.
“The reason this team has had so much success again us is because of their odd-man rushes, but they didn’t have many chances tonight,” said Bleackley.
“They’re probably the quickest transition team in the league and we did a really good job of making smart plays and getting pucks behind them. When it did get turned over we were on top of guys quick. That was the biggest difference tonight.”
Sittler re-entered the game at the start of the third period and stopped all seven shots he faced. Settler finished with 21 saves, Skinner recorded two and Martin kicked out 25 shots to record his 16th win of the season.
“Our penalty killing was huge tonight, both of our specialty teams,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter, whose club was seven-for-seven on the kill and two-for three with a man advantage.
“We needed a response after last night, which was one of the weakest games we’ve played in awhile. Tonight we responded well and it’s about work ethic and playing the game the right way. When you do things the right way good things can happen for you.”
The Rebels physically punished the visitors, particularly in the first two periods.
“Last night we didn’t show much of that at all,” said Sutter. “We needed to get back to our game. We’re a big team and we have to play big. It was a solid effort by the kids. They came here with a purpose tonight and that was important.”
Defenceman Carson Sass, 16, made an impressive Rebels regular-season debut, getting the call in place of Austin Shmoorkoff.
“I was very happy with his game,” said Sutter. “We brought him in from Yorkton (Sask.) a couple of days ago, he had a heck of a (midget AAA) season there.
“He’s an intelligent defenceman who understands the game. We needed a bit of a shake-up on the back end and he came in and handled himself quite well.”
The Rebels host the Calgary Hitmen Tuesday.