Wheat Kings 3 Rebels 2
In Jesse Wallin’s opinion, it wasn’t so much what the Brandon Wheat Kings did Saturday night at the Centrium; it was more what the Red Deer Rebels did not do.
And that was protect the puck.
The visitors took advantage of Red Deer errors to post a clutch 3-2 win before 5,025 spectators, in the process opening up a four-point gap between themselves and the ninth-place Rebels in the WHL Eastern Conference.
“It’s disappointing. There were a big two points on the line tonight,” Wallin, the Rebels GM/head coach, understated.
After Red Deer forward Turner Elson opened the scoring nine minutes into the game, Ryan Pulock pulled the visitors even with a screened point shot just over two minutes later and Mark Stone notched his 32nd of the season with two seconds left in the opening period to give the Wheat Kings a lead they never relinquished.
“We got careless with the puck and spotted them two goals,” said Wallin. “Their first goal was a bit of a tough break but on the second goal, with two seconds left on the clock . . . you can’t allow that to happen, you have to bear down.”
Brandon moved in front 3-1 when Michael Ferland tipped Pulock’s point shot past Red Deer netminder Deven Dubyk 7:47 into a second period that was far from the Rebels’ best of the season.
“We were sloppy moving the puck tonight,” said Wallin. “Through the second period we did a poor job of moving the puck through the neutral zone. I didn’t think they (Wheat Kings) did anything that was particularly difficult, it was more or less just our (lack of) execution and not having some awareness and communication. We just turned too many pucks over.”
Still, the Rebels stormed back with a potent third-period attack, outshooting their guests 12-5 but gaining just a single goal as Elson beat Brandon stopper Corbin Boes from the low slot at 5:48 for his 18th of the season.
Boes was solid throughout the contest, finishing with 39 saves. Dubyk stopped 21 shots for the Rebels.
“I liked the way we pushed back in the third period, but we dug ourselves a big hole and weren’t able to get back,” said Wallin. “Turnovers were the big difference in the game.”
Brandon head coach Cory Clouston acknowledged that Boes was a saviour for his struggling club.
“Our goaltending has been up and down this season, but I thought that tonight Boes was probably our best player,” he said. “And I thought our penalty kill (three-for-three) did a great job.
“We sat back in the third period and at times played not to lose as opposed to trying to win. When you’re in a situation like we’ve been in, sometimes the biggest hurdle is the mental hurdle, so we’re not going to criticize too many wins right now. Any win is a good win.”
Elson, whose younger brother Trace dressed for the game as a Rebels affiliate, wasn’t making any excuses for the loss.
“We battled back in the third but we had to be better in that second period,” he said. “ We were a weak team in the second. We didn’t do our jobs. We didn’t come out hard, we didn’t battle. They out-battled us in the second and that hurt us.”
As for his brother’s presence in the Red Deer lineup . . .
“It was really cool,” said the third-year Rebels forward. “Trace deserves this, he’s been working hard (as an Alberta midget AAA all-star with the St. Albert Raiders). Every time he was out there tonight he did things right and did a good job overall.”
• The Rebels’ ridiculous run of injuries continued Friday when fourth-year forward and team captain Adam Kambeitz suffered a lower-body injury during a 3-2 overtime win over visiting Tri-City.
Kambeitz joins five teammates on the injury list and will be out of commission for about six weeks.