The Red Deer Rebels have played down to the level of their opposition all too often this Western Hockey League season.
That was the case again Tuesday, at least through two periods. But a strong push in the final frame got the Rebels to overtime and then a shootout, and eventually a 3-2 win over the Regina Pats before a recorded gathering of 4,221 at the Centrium.
With netminder Patrik Bartosak on the bench, captain Turner Elson saved the home side with a goal at the 19-minute mark of the third period. Then, following a scoreless five-minute overtime frame, Bartosak foiled all three Regina shooters while former Pat Dominik Volek beat opposing netminder Matt Hewitt with the winning tally.
“It wasn’t pretty. We weren’t very good for 40 minutes,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “Our goalie played outstanding and in the third period and overtime we gave up a total of two shots.
“But the first 40 minutes just weren’t what we can accept and it’s not how we want to play at this time of the year. This is the time of the year you have to make a push and everyone’s game has to be at a level that’s acceptable.”
The Pats never trailed in the contest and were full value for their 1-0 lead after one period and 2-1 edge after 40 minutes.
Former Rebels forward Lane Scheidl notched his 30th of the season during a Regina power play in the final minute of the opening frame.
Rhyse Dieno pulled the Rebels even at 12:30 of the second period, intercepting a weak pass by Pats forward Trent Ouellette and whipping a quick shot by Hewitt.
But the visitors, despite being outshot 14-9 in the period, regained the lead when Scheidl took a feed from Chandler Stephenson and beat Bartosak at 19:39 with a bullet from the high slot.
The Rebels carried the play through the third period — outshooting their guests 15-1 — and applied big-time pressure in the final 10 minutes. They were finally rewarded when Elson buried his own rebound with a minute remaining.
“They gave me time. A guy came down and tried to block me and I went around him, put if off the pad (of Hewitt) and got the rebound. I knew I had it,” said Elson.
The victory moved the Rebels into fourth place in the Eastern Conference, one point up on the Prince Albert Raiders. Red Deer is seven points ahead of Medicine Hat, eight up on Swift Current and 10 ahead of the eighth-place Kootenay Ice.
“We needed these two points. We know we’re right there with P.A. and there are teams chasing us from behind,” said Elson.
“That (Regina) is a team at the bottom of our conference and we have to beat them every time. We worked hard in the third period but in the first two we were sloppy.”
Bartosak, steady but not overly busy, turned aside 20 shots to post his 26th win of the season. His best saves came early, as he denied Stephenson on two occasions, including a breakaway, and took a goal away from Emil Sylvegard.
Hewitt was a standout at the other end, making 40 saves, including big stops on Brooks Maxwell, Volek and Haydn Fleury.
“I know their goalie played pretty well for them, but our emotion level and intensity level were not where we wanted for the first two periods,” said Sutter. “But we got it back in the third period and were able to capitalize on a chance and made the most of the shootout.”
The Rebels are in Lethbridge Friday to face the Hurricanes, then host Prince Albert Saturday and meet the Tigers Sunday at Medicine Hat.
“It’s a big, big weekend for us. Those points add up,” said Elson. “We need points in all of these games.”
• Advocate’s three stars: (1) Elson . . . Scored the all-important tying goal; (2) Hewitt . . . Kept his team in the game; (3) Dieno . . . A goal and an assist for the hottest Rebels forward.