LETHBRIDGE — The Red Deer Rebels, with Turner Elson and Patrik Bartosak playing leading roles, moved closer to clinching home-ice advantage in the opening round of the Western Hockey League playoffs with a 4-0 win over the Lethbridge Hurricanes Wednesday.
Elson potted a pair of goals in a dominating performance and Bartosak wasn’t far behind, blocking all 39 shots he faced for his fifth shutout of the season.
“From the goalie on out, we were solid tonight,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter.
Elson was a force, tipping a power-play feed from Tyson Ness past ‘Canes netminder Ty Rimmer for the eventual winner at 5:35 of the second period, and potting a short-handed goal 10 minutes later. Brooks Maxwell set up the second goal, forcing a turnover with a torrid forecheck and — from behind the net — finding Elson, who streaked into the low slot and beat Rimmer top shelf.
“He really played well. He’s one of our 20-year-olds and you expect that of him,” Sutter said of Rebels captain Elson. “But overall our whole team was really solid. I liked the way we played, we were smart. We took a couple too many penalties but other than that we were pretty solid.”
Wyatt Johnson upped the count to 3-0 at 17:43 of the middle frame when he stepped into a shot from the right faceoff circle and caught the far corner behind Rimmer, and Mathew Dumba ripped home a power-play drop-pass from Brady Gaudet at 17:35 of the third period to close out the scoring.
Rimmer finished with 24 saves.
Coupled with their victory and a 4-3 win by the Calgary Hitmen over the host Prince Albert Raiders, the Rebels took a six-point lead over P.A. in the battle for fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
Sutter, however, suggested he hasn’t been scoreboard watching.
“The important thing is just recognizing as a team that at this time of the year your level of play has to be at a standard that is high and is acceptable,” said the Rebels bench boss. “We have a goal we want to reach through the regular season and to get there we’ll have to make sure that everyone’s game is at a standard that allows our team to play well as a whole.”
l Rebels defenceman Devan Fafard was injured when he was crushed into the boards by Lethbridge forward Graham Hood — assessed a boarding major and game misconduct for his actions — and is listed as day-to-day.
The Rebels host the Hurricanes Friday, then face the Hitmen Sunday afternoon at the Calgary Saddledome before taking on the Edmonton Oil Kings in a home-and-home set March 15-16.