Rebels 5 Raiders 3
The Red Deer Rebels’ offence, both regular-strength and on the power play, came alive Friday night at the Centrium.
It was a welcome sign for GM/head coach Brent Sutter, whose club still had to weather a third-period rally by the Prince Albert Raiders before pulling out a 5-3 Western Hockey League win in front of a recorded gathering of 5,165 at the Centrium.
“We found a way to score some goals tonight, it’s something that’s been hard to come by the last couple of weeks,” said Sutter. “Our power play got going for us tonight, which was huge. It’s been somewhat of an issue, not capitalizing on opportunities, so it was good to see the power play contribute.”
The Rebels got on the board first when Brooks Maxwell worked out of the corner, waited for Raiders netminder Nick McBride to commit and then beat him high to the glove side.
Defenceman Mackenzie Stewart pulled the visitors even with a man-advantage marker just over five minutes later, his wrist shot from the top of the left faceoff circle finding its way through a crowd and past a screened Rebels goaltender Rylan Toth.
The middle frame was easily Red Deer’s best and resulted in three straight goals, with Scott Feser shoveling home a power-play backhand from close range, rookie rearguard Josh Mahura connecting with a man-advantage blast from the point and Maxwell potting his second of the night, one-timing a perfect feed from Riley Sheen.
Luke Coleman, a Red Deer product who played with the midget AAA Optimist Chiefs this season before being recalled by the Raiders last week, got his club back into the game when he notched his first-ever WHL goal late in the period.
As effective as the Rebels were in the second frame, the Raiders were equal to the task over the final 20 minutes, outshooting their hosts 11-5.
“I thought for 40 minutes we played a pretty solid game, then in the third we sat on it. We were on our heels too much and didn’t play the way we like to play,” said Sutter.
With the Rebels’ Kayle Doetzel serving a checking-from-behind penalty, Raiders defenceman Jesse Lees made it a one-goal contest with a point shot at 6:29 of the final frame. But Toth stood tall the rest of the way and Sheen sealed the deal with an empty-net marker.
“It’s two points and we have to learn from it. We have a game here in less than 24 hours and we have to be better tomorrow night than we were tonight,” said Sutter, in reference to tonight’s meeting with the visiting Lethbridge Hurricanes.
“I thought we played well in some areas and kind of struggled in others, but we got the job done that we came here to do and got the two points,” said Maxwell, the game’s first star.
Maxwell’s two-goal output gave him 19 for the season.
“It felt good to contribute after missing the last game (with an injury),” he said. “The first one was kind of a gift and so was the second one, off a good pass by Sheener.”
The Rebels fourth-year forward had a good look at No. 20 during a third-period two-one-one break with rookie Reese Johnson, playing just his second game since being summoned from the midget ranks last Sunday. Instead, he decided to feed Johnson and his pass was blocked by a Raiders defender.
“In my mind, I was thinking that if the guy (defenceman) comes to me I’m going to try and slide it over to Reese, but I kind of fanned on it,” said Maxwell. “I apologized to Reese. It would have been nice to see him get his first (WHL marker).”
The victory was the Rebels’ second in succession, following Wednesday’s 2-1 triumph at Edmonton, and kept them four points ahead of the fourth-place Kootenay Ice — 3-2 shootout winners Friday at Brandon — in the Central Division.
Maxwell suggested it could be a sign of things to come.
“We struggled there for a bit, that was pretty evident,” he said. “But I think we’re getting back on track and doing things right and it’s showing out there.”
• The Rebels were minus the services of defenceman Colton Bobyk and forwards Conner Bleackley and Evan Polei, all out with injuries. Forward Austin Adamson was a healthy scratch.