MEDICINE HAT — Red Deer Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter described Tuesday’s Western Hockey League meeting with the Medicine Hat Tigers as “entertaining.”
Clearly, the Rebels were having more fun than their hosts as they got a flawless 43-save outing from Patrik Bartosak and turned in a strong third period in a 4-0 victory before 4,006 fans at the Arena.
“There was a lot of offensive opportunities for both sides tonight,” said Sutter, who would have preferred to limit the shots against to 30 or fewer but was grateful for the points.
“There are nights when you maybe not play as well as you’d like and you find a way to win,” he continued.
Bartosak, rightfully named the game’s first star, played a large role in the outcome, stopping 35 shots through 40 minutes and eight more in the final frame, the Rebels’ best.
“He played well, really well. And we had some timely goals,” said Sutter, who is 3-0 as the club’s bench boss since replacing Jesse Wallin last week.
“Obviously there’s still lots of work to be done but we’ll continue to keep our foot on the pedal.”
The Rebels led 1-0 after the first period on a short-handed goal by Wyatt Johnson, doubled the margin on a second-period marker from Brady Gaudet and got third-period goals — 38 seconds apart — from Cory Millette and Conner Bleackley while directing 18 shots at Tigers goaltenders Cam Lanigan, who started, and Marek Langhamer, who came in with 12 minutes remaining.
“Our third period was our best period,” said Sutter.
“We talked after the second period about having to be mentally and physically engaged in the game, about getting involved. There were times tonight when we weren’t and we got hemmed in our own zone at times and did things we can’t do.
“We had a real good start to the game, but then we let up and they came at us and Patty stood tall. But that’s all stuff we can work on. It’s all part of the process.”
The Rebels’ penalty killers were sharp as the Tigers enjoyed six power-play opportunities as opposed to two for the visitors.
“We took too many penalties tonight and that’s an area where we need to get better,” said Sutter. “I wasn’t happy with that lack of discipline so we’ll have to sharpen up in that regard, but two points is two points. When you can go on the road and win in a tough building, it’s huge.”
Lanigan and Langhamer, who stopped all 11 shots he faced, combined to make 34 saves.
The Rebels host the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Moose Jaw Warriors on Friday and Saturday.
• Rebels rookie defenceman Haydn Fleury will suit up with Team West in the World Under 17 Hockey Challenge Dec. 29 to Jan. 4 in Victoriaville and Drummondville, Que.
Fleury was named to the team — which consists of the premier 16-year-olds in Saskatchewan and Manitoba — on Tuesday. Bleackley will play with Team Pacific, featuring the top players in Alberta and British Columbia.
• Red Deer defenceman Kayle Doetzel, who has been out with a broken jaw since early October, is ranked 14th among Western Hockey League skaters by Central Scouting for the 2013 NHL entry draft.