As Star Wars Grand Master Yoda might say, a glorious fate the Red Deer Rebels deserved.
The Rebels were the superior team through the better part of Monday’s WHL playoff encounter with the visiting Calgary Hitmen and got their just reward when Mathew Dumba scored in overtime for a 2-1 victory.
Calgary leads the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal 2-1 with Game 4 set for tonight at 7 p.m. at the Centrium, which attracted 4,819 fans Monday.
Perhaps it was only fitting that the Red Deer power play would decide the contest. The Rebels’ man advantage units — anemic in Games 1 and 2 — were effective during their two earlier opportunities and Dumba wasn’t about to blow his chance.
The rearguard moved into the high slot and blew a laser past netminder Chris Driedger at 6:33 with Hitmen defenceman Spencer Humphries serving a high sticking infraction.
“We lucked out when Diener’s (Rhyse Dieno’s) pass through the seam hit a skate and came right to me,” said Dumba. “I had a lot of time and got to step into one.”
The outcome guaranteed there will be a fifth game Thursday in Calgary, but little else, as Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter noted.
“The win gets us back into the series, but tonight when we leave the rink it’s over with. We have a quick turnaround to get ready for tomorrow night’s game,” he said.
“This was a good hockey game, well-played for the most part by both teams. Both teams created scoring chances and both goalies played well.”
Indeed, Red Deer’s Patrik Bartosak and his counterpart Driedger stood tall.
Bartosak, who stopped 38 shots in total, made a great glove stab on Humphries in overtime and also got his pad on a quick deflection. Driedger, meanwhile, robbed Dieno more than once and finished with 42 saves.
The Rebels were somewhat slow out of the gate and watched the Hitmen open the scoring seven minutes into the game when Peter Kosterman’s point shot deflected off a Red Deer stick and past Bartosak.
Then, with Rebels blueline Devan Fafard off for tripping, Brooks Maxwell created a turnover at the Red Deer blueline, broke in alone and beat Driedger under the glove. The short-handed marker proved to be the only scoring until the extra frame.
“We were a little nervous, a little hesitant early in the game,” said Sutter. “We played on our heels, we played a little robotic you might say.
“This is not the time of year to do that, especially against a good team. You have to be on your toes and you have to go.”
But his squad was able to regroup and, as Sutter suggested, was deserving of the victory.
“We created chances and we did a good job with our details and how we want to play. We were disciplined in our game,” he said.
“In the third period we had enormous chances and their goalie played very well. Once we got to overtime we had to pound pucks and shoot pucks. We got an opportunity on the power play, which we deserved, and we capitalized on it. Our power play wasn’t very good in Calgary but tonight it got us a big goal.”
Dumba was also convinced that the right team prevailed.
“We played really hard. They (Hitmen) are not going to stop at any time in this series. They’re a strong team and they’re going to battle and just work for everything and that’s what we did tonight,” he said.
“I think we were deserving. It was a great feeling to win and yet we know it’s just one game. There are four more to play in this series and we just have to come out with that same compete level and aggressiveness and just keep on battling, keep on working and sticking to our structure.”
While Dumba felt the Hitmen brought their hard hats Monday, the feeling wasn’t similar outside the other dressing room.
“We didn’t work as hard as we should have tonight, especially coming into this rink” said Calgary defenceman Jaynen Rissling. “We knew it was going to be a tough challenge and I thought once we got that first goal we thought it might be a little easy. We didn’t really keep up the hard work and that’s why we lost.”
However, as he noted, the Hitmen lost Game 3 of their conference quarter-final versus Swift Current after winning the first two at home and ended up prevailing in five games.
“We bounced back pretty well from that loss at Swift Current. I’m just glad that we can come right back in here tomorrow,” he said.
l Rebels forward Matt Bellerive was suspended for two games Monday for a kneeing major he was assessed in Game 2 of the series . . . Forwards Scott Feser and Adam Musil saw their first post-season action with Bellerive serving the first game of the suspension and Cory Millette a healthy scratch . . . Advocate’s three stars — (1) Dumba . . . played a strong, two-way game and scored the winner; (2) Driedger . . . Hitmen goalie was the main reason the game got to overtime, making 13 of his 42 saves in the third period; (3) Bartosak . . . was sharp throughout and made a couple of game-saving stops in the extra period.