Scoring early and often, the Red Deer Rebels closed out their Western Hockey League season with an exclamation point.
With two goals on his first two shifts and an assist later in the second period, Defenceman Colton Bobyk and his laser slap shot led the Rebels to a 7-2 win over the visiting Edmonton Oil Kings Saturday night at the Enmax Centrium.
The second goal came after the Rebels cycled the puck down low, Ivan Nikolishin fed a waiting Bobyk at the point. With that goal, Bobyk became the sixth Rebel to score 20 goals this season, joining Philp, Pawlenchuk, DeBrusk, Helewka and Nikolishin.
“It was a goal I set at the start of the year and I achieved it,” said Bobyk.
Adam Helewka gave the Rebels a 3-0 lead, but Grayson Pawlenchuk did most of the work. Pawlenchuk, at full speed went behind the goalie, getting Lee out of position, and backhanding the puck to a waiting Helewka, who had a wide open cage to bury his team leading 42nd goal of the season.
By the end of the first period, the Rebels had a 4-0 lead. By the end of the second that lead had widened to 6-0.
“You get a lead like that and you’re just trying to get through the third period without getting anybody banged up or any more injuries,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “Overall the kids came here ready to play. We wanted to finish the regular season off the right way.”
In and out of the lineup all season, Austin Pratt had two goals of his own, both from the slot. His second goal came on a power play early in the third period to make it 7-0 Rebels. Sutter commented that his line played very well the whole game, even after Bleackley went out and he had to rotate guys in.
Jeff DeWitt and Luke Philp both scored in the second. Philp’s was set up by Michael Spacek who had a clear shot on net 50 seconds into the second period, but Lee was high in the crease, so Spacek passed it over to Philp in the slot. With Lee out of position, Philp sniped his 21st of the year.
Brett Pollock was the lone bright spot for the Oil Kings with short handed and powerplay markers.
With the book closed on the Rebels regular season, their focus now shifts to the playoffs and a first round matchup with rival Calgary.
“I expect it to be a tough series,” said Sutter.
“They played us hard all year and it has been some tough games. It’s playoff time and if you play well anybody can beat anybody. You have to make sure you’re to play.
“It’ll be a tough, long, hard-fought series. They have a good team and we have to make sure we’re prepared.”
Game 1 of the Hitmen-Rebels series starts Friday night at 7 p.m. at the Centrium. Game 2 starts the next night at 7 p.m., also at the Centrium. Game 3 is in Calgary on Sunday at 4 p.m.
The Oil Kings will have to play the Medicine Hat Tigers in a one game winner-take-all playoff game on Tuesday for the eighth and final playoff spot. The Tigers beat the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Saturday 4-2.
Notes: Player awards were handed out before the start of the game. Spacek was the rookie of the year, Brandon Hagel was the most underrated player, Haydn Fleury was the best defenceman and MVP, Evan Polei won the humanitarian awards, Ivan Nikolishin was the leading scorer and the three star award winner and the Players award was given to Kayle Doetzel for the second straight year … Martin came out of the game to start the third, giving Dawson Weatherill some ice time … Conner Bleackley left the game part way through the first period holding his wrist. Sutter said Bleackley went to hospital with cut on his wrist.