Michael Spacek notched the winning goal, but Jake DeBrusk was the face of the Red Deer Rebels Saturday night at the Centrium.
The 19-year-old forward scored a goal from the doorstep and assisted on Adam Musil’s second-period tally as the Rebels posted a 4-3 WHL overtime victory over the Moose Jaw Warriors.
DeBrusk was all hustle and flow in front of 5,703 fans and his second-period marker was indicative of the gritty manner in which he performed. The Edmonton native parked himself at the edge of the Warriors crease and banged home a rebound of an Adam Helewka feed.
“It’s always been a focus and we’ve been focusing on it a lot, especially against teams like Moose Jaw because of how they collapse,” said DeBrusk, on the Rebels’ desire to get into the tough areas and screen the opposing netminder.
“Moose Jaw leaves the points open and comes out to block. But if that shot gets through the goalie is not going to see it. That was one of our main things tonight —getting even sharp-angle shots and finding rebounds.”
The final score was not indicative of the manner in which the Rebels carried the play. The hosts held a whopping 30-10 advantage in shots after two periods but entered the third stanza tied 2-2.
Spacek cashed a rebound to give Red Deer a 3-2 lead 13:52 into the final frame, but Dryden Hunt notched his third of the evening for the visitors just 68 seconds later, connecting on a one-timer from the faceoff circle with Rebels defenceman Nelson Nogier serving a cross-checking minor.
Moose Jaw netminder Zach Sawchenko robbed Ivan Nikolishin early in the overtime frame and the Warriors couldn’t convert on an ensuing two-on-one break. Spacek settled the manner when he took a breakaway pass from Grayson Pawlenchuk, out-waited Sawchenko and found the top of the net.
“Spacs is pretty good on breakaways because he’s very patient, as he showed on that goal,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “Our goalie (Rylan Toth) gave us a chance and then in overtime it’s pretty much a coin flip … head or tails,” noted DeBrusk. “We’re happy with the win.”
After neither team connected in the first period, Musil opened the scoring just past the midway point of the second stanza, firing home a rebound of a point shot by Hayden Fleury that Sawchenko stopped, but then dropped.
Hunt replied with his 33rd of the season, on the power play, just over a minute later, then provided the Warriors with their only lead of the night at 15:55 with a wrist shot from the high slot.
From there, DeBrusk connected at 17:14, setting the stage for an exciting third period.
Sawchenko finished with 42 saves, while Toth blocked 21 shots.
“At moments it was good and at moments it wasn’t so good,” Sutter said of his club’s performance. “They got two power-play goals on us tonight so obviously our penalty kill wasn’t where we needed it to be.
“But I thought both teams looked tired. It was a tight-checking game and both goalies were OK. It was one of those games where you have to stay with it. We talked between periods about sticking with it even though not everything was going exactly the way we wanted.
“All we could do was stay with our game and not get frustrated and let it go the other way, and I thought we did a pretty good job of that tonight.”
DeBrusk agreed that the Rebels were deserving victors.
“It wasn’t exactly the prettiest one,” he stated. “Today it was just one of those things were they (Warriors) capitalized on their power-play chances and gave themselves a chance.
“I thought we were kind of pushing the pace in the game. It was kind of a little back and forth but overall I thought we deserved the win.”
• The Warriors were minus the services of star forward Brayden Point, who suffered an injury in Friday’s 5-1 loss at Lethbridge. The Rebels were without defenceman Josh Mahura and forwards Braden Purtill, Luke Philp, Conner Bleackley and Reese Johnson, all on the injury list. As a result, forward Akash Bains was recalled from his midget team at the Delta, B.C., Hockey Academy and made his WHL regular-season debut … Red Deer pulled to within three points of the Central Division and Eastern Conference leading Lethbridge Hurricanes, who fell 2-0 Saturday to the host Kootenay Ice. The Rebels are third in the conference, a single point back of Brandon … Red Deer returns to action Wednesday against the visiting Medicine Hat Tigers.