Rebels 3 Americans 2
Whether he realized it or not, Mathew Dumba’s overtime goal Friday at the Centrium might have been the most important marker of the season for the Red Deer Rebels.
At least to this point in the WHL season.
Dumba moved in from the point and beat Tri-City Americans netminder Eric Comrie with a high slot just 38 seconds into the extra frame to give the Rebels a come-from-behind 3-2 win over the Tri-City Americans before 4,781 mostly excited fans.
“Charles (Inglis) threw it up to me in the high slot and I got to walk in all alone,” said Dumba, describing his clutch 16th goal of the season. “Johnny (Persson) provided a screen and I was able to put it glove high.”
The victory pulled Red Deer to within two points of the Brandon Wheat Kings for eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. The Rebels, who have three games in hand, can pull even with the Wheat Kings — who fell 6-2 at Edmonton — when the two clubs meet tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Centrium.
The Rebels, despite turning in one of their hardest-working efforts of the season, trailed 2-0 after 40 minutes Friday.
Dumba, who forced overtime with a goal midway through the third period, insisted the team wasn’t at all downcast despite heading into the final frame trailing by two.
“We were happy with our first two periods,” he said. “We were playing a well-structured game and were battling hard. We knew that if we just kept working that the goals would come.
“We just kept battling and getting grittier and grittier in the third period and the goals came.”
Sure enough, they did.
Persson ignited the rally with his 17th of the season at 4:21.
Inglis forced a turnover at the visitors’ blueline and passed across to Turner Elson, who in turn fed Persson. The big power forward faked a backhand, and then went to his forehand and slid the puck past Comrie.
Dumba pulled the Rebels even six minutes later, cutting down the right side, moving into the low slot and then stuffing his own rebound into the net.
Rebels netminder Deven Dubyk finished with 36 saves, including huge third-period stops on Patrick Holland and Adam Hughesman to keep the rally moving forward.
Connor Rankin scored a first-period goal for Tri-City and Zachary Yuen connected in the second stanza, but Dubyk shut the door the rest of the way.
“Both goaltenders played very well,” said Rebels GM/head coach Jesse Wallin. “Their guy (Comrie made 35 saves and robbed Persson with a second-period pad block) stood tall for them and Dubey certainly did the same for us when we really needed him to.
“That was just a real good hockey game tonight. Both teams played well. It was an entertaining, fast-paced game. We had a lot of guys play well and the thing I was most happy about was the way we dug in and showed resilience.”
While the Rebels created a handful of top-notch scoring chances through the first two periods, a betting man would have offered long odds on their chances of coming back from a 2-0 deficit to a multi-talented team like the Americans.
“Down 2-0 against the third-ranked team in the (CHL) might have been a bit overwhelming, but the guys did a good job of staying focused and just taking it one shift at a time,” said Wallin.
“We got the 2-1 goal and just kept pushing forward through the rest of the period and then into overtime. We went after it, we wanted the win and it was certainly a huge win.”
And now for tonight’s four-pointer against the Wheat Kings . . .
“Our goal all week was to set ourselves up for tomorrow,” said Wallin. “That was the message in the room after the game — this one is over, now go home and get a good rest and come back tomorrow and play the same way.”
Added Dumba: “Coming into the game we knew we’d have to battle hard all night and to get a win against a top team shows that we can compete against the best.”
Notes: On a negative note, the Rebels lost captain Adam Kambeitz to an apparent ankle injury in the second period. His status for tonight’s game was uncertain . . . It was a homecoming of sorts for a trio of Americans — Red Deer products Justin Feser, Derek Ryckman and Mitch Topping . . . The Rebels dressed Feser’s brother Scott — an affiliate with the Red Deer midget AAA Optimist Rebels — for the game. The parents of both players were introduced to the crowd during the second-period intermission.