Red Deer Rebels No. 2 netminder Bolton Pouliot broke through with his first-ever Western Hockey League win Feb. 17 at Kamloops.
On Saturday, before a gathering of 5,015 at the Centrium, he recorded his first-ever home-ice victory and was rewarded with a tackle by teammate and Swedish power forward John Persson.
“Concussion probably. We’ll do the tests later,” Pouliot joked about the reception from Persson following his 23-save performance in a 4-1 victory over the Saskatoon Blades. “It was good to finally win here, it was nice to do that for the boys.”
And the ‘boys’ agreed, celebrating big-time with the 17-year-old goalie when the game concluded.
“Bolton got the opportunity to start tonight and I know he was itching to get back in there,” said Rebels captain Adam Kambeitz, who notched a power-play goal and added an assist.
“He had that solid game in Kamloops and has kind of proven that he can step in. He did an awesome job tonight. He battled and made some key saves, so that was awesome too.”
Pouliot got the word from Rebels GM/head coach Jesse Wallin Saturday morning that he would be starting that night.
“Jesse let me know this morning and I just tried to not think about it,” said the rookie netminder. “I went out for lunch and did my normal routine and everything worked out.”
Pouliot was busy in the first period, stopping 13 of the 14 shots the Blades directed his way while coming up with a handful of impressive saves.
“That helped to keep me busy, but the third period especially was really quiet,” he said.
“I didn’t have a shot until probably the 15-minute mark. But yeah, the first period was busy and that helped me calm myself and I got into a groove from there.”
As it turned out, Pouliot was a two-way threat Saturday, earning an assist on Mathew Dumba’s empty-net goal in the final minute of the game.
The goal came just seconds after the Blades stormed the Red Deer net and slid the puck off the post and through the crease.
“I guess that’s what I have to do to get an assist — let the puck hit the post first,” Pouliot joked.
As for his offensive skills and potential spot on the club’s power play . . .
“I think I’ll stick to the net,” he said.
Wallin was pleased to see Pouliot post his second win of his WHL career and his first at the Centrium.“That’s absolutely big for his confidence, especially winning in back-to-back starts,” said the Rebels bench boss.
“Bolton played really well in Kamloops and he’s also been good in relief. He knew this morning that he’d be starting. He knew he was playing and he prepared well.”
“He had to make a couple of good saves in the first period and he held his own against some skilled players. He stood tall and should be feeling good about himself right now and we need him to keep that going.”
The Blades led 1-0 after one period on a power-play goal by Brett Stovin, then pulled even six minutes into the second frame on a short-handed marker from Chad Robinson, who converted a pass from Dumba.
Kambeitz potted the winner with his 15th of the season at 4:24 of the third period and Persson added an insurance marker 12 minutes later.
The Rebels created chances during a series of second-period power plays, but didn’t connect with a man advantage until Kambeitz came through in the final frame.
“We got into their end on our power play tonight, we executed well on our breakouts and we were getting lots of pucks to their net,” said Kambeitz.
“Unfortunately some of the bounces didn’t go our way early on, but we didn’t get frustrated. We stuck with it and things ended up going our way.”
Saskatoon netminder Andrey Makarov turned aside 35 shots in a standout performance.
The Rebels, who are eight points removed from a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference with seven games to play, host the Calgary Hitmen Tuesday at 7 p.m