Rebels make a pit stop

On the seventh day they rested. The Red Deer Rebels were offered some leisure time Sunday, a reward for their 5-3 Western Hockey League win over the Tri-City American before 5,000 fans the night before at the Toyota Center in Kennewick. Wash.

Rebels 5 Americans 3

EVERETT, Wash. — On the seventh day they rested.

The Red Deer Rebels were offered some leisure time Sunday, a reward for their 5-3 Western Hockey League win over the Tri-City American before 5,000 fans the night before at the Toyota Center in Kennewick. Wash.

The victory snapped a two-game losing streak for the Rebels, who opened their Western Conference swing with a 4-1 loss at Seattle and a 4-3 overtime setback Friday at Portland, a pair of decisions that could easily have gone the other way.

“For sure, last night’s win was huge for us,” head coach/VP of hockey operations Jesse Wallin said Sunday. “And it was a bit of weight off of the guys’ shoulders. We played so well in Seattle (outshooting the Thunderbirds 47-17) but came out on the wrong end of the score, then to lose the way we did in Portland (giving up a late third-period goal that forced overtime) was really disappointing as well.”

The Rebels headed into Kennewick to face a rested team.

“They (Americans) hadn’t played the night before so they were sitting there waiting for us,” said Wallin. “They’re a team with a lot of energy. They’re similar to Medicine Hat in that they have a small group of forwards who can fly and are good with the puck and good off the rush. They tried to challenge us that way and it took a really gritty, gutsy effort to get out of there with two points.

“I was proud of our guys’ response (to Friday’s loss).”

The Americans outshot their guests 13-6 in a scoreless first period, then struck at 2:18 of the middle frame with a power-play goal from Brooks Macek.

But the Rebels replied with three unanswered goals before the period ended, courtesy of Mathew Dumba, Daulton Siwak and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (power play).

“We kind of seemed to get our legs going about halfway through the second period. We juggled our lines a bit just to kind of change things and get a new look, and that seemed to give us a spark and some energy,” said Wallin. “We were able to respond to their first goal with two of our own and then the next goal to make it 3-1 was a huge turning point for us and gave us a little more energy and enthusiasm.

“We were able to kind of bring it home after that.”

The Rebels matched the Americans at two goals apiece in the third period, with Nugent-Hopkins potting another man-advantage marker and Byron Froese cashing in with Tri-City’s Sam Grist off for tripping, and Jordan Messier and Adam Hughesman (power play) scoring for the hosts.

Darcy Kuemper sizzled in the Rebels’ net, turning aside 32 shots. Drew Owsley made 19 saves for Tri-City.

“Kuemps was good when we needed him to be. He made big saves for us at key times,” said Wallin. “They came out hard at us and we were really sluggish in the early going.

“Through the first half of the game we just looked like we were tired, it seemed that they just had that extra step on us. They came at us really hard early and Kuemper made some key saves to keep the game scoreless after one (period).”

Nugent-Hopkins, meanwhile, snapped a long scoring drought with his two goals. While the 17-year-old star sits fourth in the WHL points race with 29, he hadn’t scored since Sept. 29 prior to Saturday.

“It has been a long time coming. I’m happy to finally get one,” Nugent-Hopkins, who is riding a six-game points streak that includes two goals and 10 assists, told Annie Fowler of the Tri-City Herald. “After coming off a tough loss to Portland, it’s nice to get the two points. I liked playing here, the atmosphere is great.”

“It’s good just for his sake to get the piano off his back,” added Wallin. “He’s played well and had opportunities — we knew it was just a matter of time.”

The Rebels blew a late lead Friday in Portland, where Sven Bartschi pulled the Winterhawks even at 17:46 of the third period and Taylor Aronson connected in overtime.

“Really, we just handed it back to them. We committed two really bad turnovers and ended up giving that game back,” said Wallin.

Derrick Pouliot and Oliver Gabriel also scored for the ‘Hawks, while Siwak, Justin Weller and Andrej Kudrna replied for the Rebels, who fired 35 shots at Portland goalie Mac Carruth. Kuemper faced 39 shots.

The Rebels continue their six-game jaunt Tuesday against the Everett Silvertips and former Red Deer centre Landon Ferraro.

“We have a day off today, a much-needed day of rest to recharge the batteries,” said Wallin. “We’ll have a good practice tomorrow and get ready for Everett. Hopefully we can keep the momentum from this last game and get another two points.”

The Rebels will close out their trip with Wednesday and Friday games versus the Vancouver Giants and Chilliwack Bruins. Red Deer’s next home game is Nov. 19 against the Swift Current Broncos.

gmeachem@www.reddeeradvocate.com

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