The Lethbridge Hurricanes created some hefty winds through 40 minutes Saturday at the Enmax Centrium, but were reduced to a breeze in the third period.
Scott Feser potted a pair of late goals as the Red Deer Rebels pulled away from the visitors en route to a 5-2 Western Hockey League win before a recorded crowd of 5,157. The win came just 24 hours after the Rebels fell 5-1 to the visiting Calgary Hitmen and lost five players to injury in the process.
Saturday was full good news, as the Rebels not only moved into sole possession of eighth place in the Eastern Conference but earlier in the day learned that Friday’s injuries — for the most part — weren’t nearly as serious as first feared.
The Rebels weren’t head and shoulders better than the ‘Canes, who were right there — trailing 3-2 — when Feser batted Grayson Pawlenchuk’s pass out of the air and past netminder Jarrod Schamerhorn at 13:44 of the third period. The Red Deer native then cashed a rebound two minutes later to seal the deal.
“It was a really a hard fought game,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “Both teams were missing some players and had young kids in the lineup. There was a lot of energy and intensity.
“There were mistakes made both ways but in the third we settled into our game and did a good job of forechecking and creating some turnovers. We were also good in our zone most of the night.”
Lukas Sutter staked the Rebels to a 1-0 lead 13:45 into the contest, working out of the corner and stuffing the puck past ‘Canes’ starting goaltender Jonny Hogue. Just under three minutes later, affiliate forward Mason McCarty doubled Red Deer’s cushion with his first-ever WHL marker, racing down the wing and beating Hogue with a high shot from the right faceoff circle.
“I thought ‘Carts’ played really well, as did (forward Jeff) de Wit,” said Brent Sutter, in reference to the two affiliates. “Both those kids came in here and gave us what we wanted from them. We put a lot of younger kids in certain situations tonight because of all the injuries that we have and they all responded well.
“With McCarty, you can see he’s getting real close to playing here on a regular basis next season. And Jeff is a 15-year-old young lad who’s just going to get better and better.”
Lethbridge coach Drake Berehowsky replaced Hogue with Schamerhorn following McCarty’s goal and the trade deadline acquisition — via the Portland Winterhawks — faced 38 shots the rest of the way.
The visitors got back into the contest with a goal from Riley Sheen at 8:20 of the second period, but Rebels defenceman Brady Gaudet replied with a power-play marker at 12:16, his point shot finding its way past Schamerhorn.
“(Haydn) Fleury laid one in for me. It was a good pass from him and I took advantage of it,” said Gaudet. “It was one of those nights when things just happened. That shot doesn’t always go in but tonight it did.”
Reid Nemeth ripped a slapshot over the shoulder of Rebels netminder Patrik Bartosak with a mere eight seconds remaining in the middle frame, setting the stage for a strong third period for the home side.
The Rebels fired a total of 44 shots at the Lethbridge netminders, while Bartosak made 35 saves in a nice bounce-back performance from a poor outing Friday.
“Patty played well. We had a discussion after the game last night about moving on and getting past that one and getting ready for the next game,” said Sutter. “He handled it really well.”
The Rebels were one-for-four on the power play and four-for-four on the penalty kill.
“We killed off a couple of penalties when it was a one-goal game. They were huge kills,” said Sutter.
“Our penalty kill usually come up pretty big for us,” added Gaudet, who paid homage to a hockey legend with a goal, two assists and a spirited scrap with ‘Canes captain Brady Ramsay — a ‘Gordie Howe Hat Trick’.
“It’s kind of funny. Things just rolled for me here tonight and I set myself up for the old Gordie,” said the 19-year-old defenceman.
Meanwhile, most of the walking wounded should be back in the Red Deer lineup for a key meeting with the Raiders Wednesday at Prince Albert. Two of the players injured Friday — Sutter and Adam Musil — played Saturday, while Conner Bleackley, Wyatt Johnson and defenceman Nick Charif joined already-injured teammates Brooks Maxwell and Vukie Mpofu in the stands.
On a fortunate note, the x-rays taken on Sutter, Musil, Bleackley and Charif Friday night came back negative and Bleackley and Charif will likely rejoin the club in times for Wednesday’s road game. Maxwell, who’s been out several weeks with an upper-body injury and Mpofu, who’s missed three games with a lower-ailment, are also set to return.
Johnson suffered a concussion Friday and is out indefinitely.
“We should be able to have close to a full lineup this week,” said Sutter.
• The Rebels also play Friday and Saturday at Saskatoon and Regina. Red Deer’s next home game is Jan. 29 versus Brandon.