VICTORIA — After starting their four-game jaunt within the Western Hockey League’s B.C. Division with a pair of setbacks, the Red Deer Rebels needed a major team effort Friday to bust out of their doldrums.
The squad came through with a clutch 3-1 victory over the Victoria Royals, who entered the contest with just one loss on their docket.
“After a couple of disappointing losses, we came into this game with the mindset that we would treat it as a playoff game,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter, whose team opened the trip with losses at Kamloops and Kelowna. “To a man, everyone played well and it was important to get a positive result tonight.”
The Royals led 1-0 after 20 minutes on a goal from Keith Anderson, his first of the season.
Ivan Nikolishin pulled the Rebels even with a power-play tally assisted by Haydn Fleury and Michael Spacek at 5:52 of the second period and Evan Polei, with his fourth of the season, potted the eventual winner at 17:39 of the middle frame.
Nikolishin sealed the deal with his second of the game — and seventh of the season — an empty-netter at 19:09 of the third period, just seconds after the Royals had pulled netminder Coleman Vollrath in favour of an extra attacker.
The Rebels, who have struggled big time on the penalty kill this season, were four-for-four in that department Friday.
“Our penalty kill hasn’t been very good this season but it was a major reason why we won tonight,” said Sutter.
Netminder Rylan Toth also played a big role in the outcome — turning aside 27 shots, including 11 in each of the second and third periods — and was named first star of the game.
“Tother was our best penalty killer. He had a good night,” said Sutter, whose squad was one-for-two on the power play.
Vollrath made 21 saves while suffering his second loss of the season.
“On a road trip like this, with four games in five nights, every games gets more difficult,” said Sutter, whose squad will close out the trip tonight against the Vancouver Giants.
“When you look at Victoria’s record, this win was even more impressive,” added the Rebels boss. “We beat a good team tonight.”
Anderson and Polei were selected as the second and third stars.
The Rebels will return home following tonight’s contest to begin preparations for a home date Wednesday with the Saskatoon Blades.
The Rebels will continue their four-game homestand by hosting the Medicine Hat Tigers and Kootenay Ice next Friday and Saturday.