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Rebels down Royals 3-2 in shootout

Rebels 3 Royals 2 (SO)

It wasn’t a Royal beatdown by any means, but the Red Deer Rebels found a way to record their 20th Western Hockey League win Friday at the Centrium.

The Rebels scored on all three of their attempts in a shootout and came away with a 3-2 victory over the Victoria Royals before 4,879 fans.

Rhyse Dieno, Matt Bellerive and Conner Bleackley, with the clincher, beat Victoria netminder Patrik Polivka in the shootout, while Rebels goaltender Bolton Pouliot allowed a pair of goals but stopped the Royals’ second shooter, Brandon Magee.

“Bolton hasn’t had a lot of success in shootouts. We talked to him before it started and told him to just take it one shooter at a time,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter.

“After that, worry about the next shooter. Just give it your best shot because that’s anybody can ask for and he made a big save on that second one.”

After being outshot 23-17 and outscored 2-1 through the first 40 minutes, the visitors carried the play in the third period and forced what proved to be a scoreless overtime when Jack Walker potted his first of the season with just over four minutes remaining.

Walker went to the net and ripped a pass from Ben Walker past Pouliot for the tying goal.

“It was tough to see them score that late one but we battled and came out with two points,” said Dieno, who opened the scoring just 72 seconds into the game, burying a rebound after Polivka stopped Turner Elson’s backhand.

Logan Nelson pulled the Royals even with a power-play tally at 13:45, taking a rebound off the end boards and beating Pouliot just inside the post.

“Their forecheck and their speed kind of caught us off guard a bit in the first period,” said Sutter. “We made some adjustments after the period and got playing and created some scoring chances.”

Matt Bellerive restored the Rebels’ lead on a great individual effort just over seven minutes into the second period, breaking down the left wing, cutting into the high slot and whistling the puck past Polivka.

“We got some timely goals tonight, but when you get into a shootout you never know what’s going to happen,” said Sutter.

The Rebels responded well to the pressure-cooker, going three-for-three in the shootout, although Dieno’s shot just snuck over the goal line after Polivka got his glove on the puck, then had it fall behind him and in.

“I meant to do that,” said Dieno, with a sly grin. “Just kidding, I got lucky there. He got a piece of it and it happened to bounce in.”

The entire contest — televised nationally by Rogers Sportsnet — was played at a high pace and featured a multitude of chances at both ends.

“That was probably the most exciting game I’ve ever been a part of,” said Dieno. “It was back and forth all night.”

The Rebels forward was suitably impressed with the Royals, a big, physical and fast-skating team.

“They have some big guys on defence — I took a few hard hits tonight — and they have a lot of speed up front,” he said.

Pouliot made 30 saves through regulation time and the five-minute overtime period. Polivka stopped 28 shots.

The Rebels improved to 20-12-2-1 with the win and pulled to within two points of second-place Edmonton in the Central Division. Red Deer is three points back of first-place Calgary.

The Rebels return to action tonight at the Centrium against the Kelowna Rockets, who downed the host Medicine Hat Tigers 5-2 Friday.

° Advocate’s three stars: (1) Bellerive . . . Scored in regulation time and the shootout; (2) Dieno . . . See Bellerive; (3) Nelson . . . See Bellerive and Dieno.



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