BRANDON — There’s something about the best that brings out the best in the Red Deer Rebels.
The Rebels knocked off yet another highly-ranked Western Hockey League team Wednesday, blanking the Brandon Wheat Kings 4-0 before a sold-out audience of 5,108 at Westman Place.
Red Deer has defeated the likes of Victoria, Kelowna and Seattle this season, Likewise, teams with borderline records and below have proven to be tough nuts for the Rebels to crack.
For example, Wednesday’s triumph came four days after Red Deer fell 4-2 to the 8-7-0-3 Saskatoon Blades, a result that was preceded by a 4-0 blanking of the Prince Albert Raiders, who sit second to the front-running Rebels in the Eastern Conference.
So, what gives?
“We continue to try and talk to the guys about how it doesn’t matter who our opponent is, our level of play has to be at a certain standard,” said GM/head coach Brent Sutter, basically suggesting – without saying as much— that his players have taken some of the so-called lesser lights at least somewhat for granted this season.
“It all has to do with the mental side of the game … not getting caught up in who your opponent is and just focusing on what we have to do as a team,” he continued. “Our inconsistency has come into play at times and it’s hurt us at certain points of the season.
“But we have to learn from all that stuff and get better. Now the key is what will be our response Friday after playing a big game here today.”
Sutter was referring to Friday’s contest against the Regina Pats, the Rebels’ fourth foe on their five-game road trip that concludes Saturday in Moose Jaw.
If the Rebels turn in a similar performance to the one they showcased Wednesday, the Pats could be in major trouble.
“We played well today, it was a really good response after dropping off in Saskatoon,” said Sutter. “We got some timely goals and our goalie was really good. He played really well and made some big saves for us at key times.”
Rylan Toth was indeed solid, his 31-save showing earning him his second — and second in as many starts — shutout of the season. The 19-year-old hasn’t allowed a goal since late in the middle period of a 4-3 win over the Seattle Thunderbirds Nov. 3 at the Centrium.
“It’s huge for him, absolutely,” said Sutter. “It’s no different for a goalie than anyone else … for a goal scorer or whoever. You get shutouts and wins and it adds to your confidence.”
Toth turned aside 15 shots in the first period as his teammates struggled out of the gate.
“He played well in the first and I thought we was really solid throughout the game,” said Sutter. “We were a little stale in the first period, we weren’t moving our feet and we had some turnovers, but Tother stood tall.
“In the second and third our team play was more like the game we played in Prince Albert.”
Grayson Pawlenchuk notched the only goal — his ninth of the season — the Rebels needed midway through the opening frame. Michael Spacek, with his ninth, made it 2-0 early in the middle period and rookies Brandon Hagel and Austin Pratt sealed the deal with third-period markers.
Brandon netminder Jordan Papirny faced 28 shots.
The Rebels’ next home game is Nov. 20 versus Saskatoon.