Rebels 5 Hurricanes 3
LETHBRIDGE — The Red Deer Rebels’ Western Hockey League win over the Lethbridge Hurricanes Tuesday was based on momentum.
The Rebels started slow, then picked up steam through the final 40 minutes and posted a 5-3 victory over the ‘Canes before 2,953 fans at the Enmax Centre.
“Our game was better in the second and third periods than in the first,” said Rebels general manager/head coach Brent Sutter. “We had a lot of shots (14) in the first period but we just weren’t playing hungry enough in the offensive zone. We had a lot of perimeter shots.
“In the second and third we started getting to the net and playing with more urgency. And we played tighter in our own zone, too.”
The Hurricanes took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission thanks to Tyler Wong’s 15th goal of the season. Rebels captain Conner Bleackley connected early in the second period and the visitors went on to outscore their hosts 4-2 in the final frame.
Defenceman Haydn Fleury gave the Rebels a 2-1 lead when he emerged from the penalty box and beat ‘Canes netminder Jayden Sittler on a breakaway 2:08 into the third period, and Bleackley potted his 20th of the season four minutes later to give the Rebels a 3-1 cushion.
Recently-acquired forward Johnny Wesley pulled the ‘Canes to within a goal at 9:24, but Evan Polei restored Red Deer’s two-goal lead three minutes later. From there, Lethbridge battled back with a goal from Carter Folk at 15:40 and Wyatt Johnson sealed the deal for the Rebels with an empty-net marker at 19:44.
The Rebels will be gunning for a fifth consecutive win when they face the Hitmen tonight in Calgary.
“We just need to keep getting better,” said Sutter. “We can’t get too caught up in it. Every game gets tougher as we go along and we have to make sure now that we’re prepared for our next game, which is going to be the toughest one.
“We have to have that mindset. We can’t get to a point where we’re patting ourselves on the back. We can feel good about our game but we have to keep it in perspective.”
Rylan Toth will start in the Red Deer net tonight. Taz Burman went the distance in Tuesday’s outing, turning aside 22 shots, while Sittler made 35 saves for the ‘Canes.
“Burms was OK tonight,” said Sutter. “He made some big saves and probably wishes he could have had a couple of goals back. But he’s 4-0 since Christmas so he’s obviously played pretty well.
“We just want to keep both of these guys going if we can, as long as they’re playing to the level they need to play at.”
l The Rebels never enjoyed a single power play Tuesday, while the ‘Canes were one-for-two with a man advantage . . . The three stars were (1) Bleackley, (2) Fleury and (3) Canes’ defenceman Kord Pankewicz . . . Following tonight’s game in Calgary, the Rebels host the Victoria Royals and Regina Pats Friday and Saturday.