By Advocate staff
Rebels 5 Blazers 3
KAMLOOPS — It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
The Red Deer Rebels stumbled out of the starting gate Friday afternoon at Interior Savings Centre, spotting the Kamloops Blazers the first goal. But the visitors never trailed again in the Western Hockey League contest viewed by 4,496 fans and fired a trio of third-period goals en route to a 5-3 victory.
“It was a real good game between two good teams. The atmosphere in the building was great and it was an exciting game,” said Rebels GM/head coach Jesse Wallin. “Scoring chances were tough to come by. Both teams played well.”
The Blazers were better early, getting a 1-0 goal from Logan McVeigh while outshooting their guests 9-5 through the first period.
“We got off to a slow start again. For whatever reason we just didn’t seem to be moving and they came out hard and scored the first goal,” said Wallin. “But we got going as the game went on. I thought we just got better and better.”
John Persson, who finished the evening with three points, pulled Red Deer even at 12:09 of the second stanza and Cory Millette gave the Rebels their first lead just 51 seconds later.
Blazers forward Colin Smith replied late in the period, setting the stage for a final frame in which the Rebels outscored their hosts 3-1.
“In the third period we really turned it on and even through the second we did a really good job of limiting their opportunities,” said Wallin, “We really did a good job of controlling the play in the offensive zone.”
Daulton Siwak, in his first game back from a two-week layoff due to an upper-body injury, gave the Rebels a 3-2 lead midway though the third period, but Ryan Hanes replied for the Rebels a mere 15 seconds later. From there, Red Deer captain Adam Kambeitz potted the winner at 13:32 and Turner Elson — with his team-leading 10th goal of the season — scored into an empty net with 42 seconds remaining.
“I like the resilience of this group,” said Wallin. “It doesn’t seem to matter if we’re down. We have strong leadership and regardless of the situation and the adversity we face, we’re able to battle through that and stay the course.”
Patrik Bartosak turned aside 24 shots for the Rebels, with the majority of his finest saves coming early.
“Our goal was to come out hard because we knew they were going to come out hard,” Red Deer defenceman Alex Petrovic told Gregg Drinnan of the Kamloops Daily News. “We didn’t do that but we weathered the storm well and Patrik played unreal in net. He saved us.”
Blazers netminder Cole Cheveldave made 18 stops and didn’t earn high marks from head coach Guy Charron.
“We expected (Cheveldave) to save us . . . he’s been playing so well,” Charron told Drinnan. “But he’s going to have a mediocre or average night and tonight was an average night.”
Red Deer improved to 13-4-0-2 and owns a league-best winning percentage of .750. The Blazers, who remain atop the B.C. Division, slipped to 12-6-0-0.
The Rebels stayed in Tsawwassen — just south of Vancouver — Friday night and will catch a ferry to Victoria this morning for games tonight and Sunday evening against the Royals.