The game was nearly seven minutes old and the Red Deer Rebels were apparently unaware that it had even started.
Brent Sutter decided it was time that he delivered the news.
“Six minutes into the game and we had to take a timeout. It was because (the players) weren’t there mentally,” the Rebels GM/head coach said following Saturday’s Western Hockey League clash with the visiting Swift Current Broncos. “I just asked them what time they thought the game was starting.”
Sutter called the break at the 6:50 mark, seconds after Broncos defenceman Max Lajoie scored with a point shot that appeared to deflect in off Rebels defenceman Haydn Fleury. Not only were the Rebels down 1-0, they were being outshot 6-0.
The message got through, as the hosts gradually got their act together and carried the play in the second and third periods en route to a 6-2 win before a gathering of 4,989 at the Enmax Centrium.
“We got going and things seemed to change a bit,” said Sutter, who delivered the second half of his message during the first intermission. “We got refocused and dialed in and after the first period we had a good talk about how we have to play and what type of team we are.
“We created some offence after that and scored some goals.”
Captain Conner Bleackley pulled the Rebels even a mere 25 seconds after the Broncos’ opening goal. Bleackley took a pass from Fleury, broke down the right side and beat netminder Travis Child with a low shot to the far corner.
From there, the Rebels struck for three unanswered second-period goals and outscored their hosts 2-1 in the final frame. They were also five-for-five on the penalty kill with two short-handed tallies and one-for-six on the power play.
“Specialty teams were huge for us, our penalty kill was massive tonight,” said Sutter. “Two of our first two four were short-handed goals. You’re up three goals going into the third and you just have to stay with your game at that point.”
While killing an early second-period penalty, Brooks Maxwell took a feed from Scott Feser following a turnover at the Red Deer blueline, busted in on a breakaway and beat Child with a backhand deke.
Rookie rearguard Austin Strand potted the eventual winner three minutes later, his volley from the point eluding a screened Child, who was promptly replaced by regular starter Landon Bow.
With Red Deer defenceman Kolton Dixon serving a holding penalty just past the midway point of the period, Wyatt Johnson created a turnover at the Rebels blueline, took off down the right boards and, while faking a pass, beat Bow high to the glove side.
The Rebels pretty much had the game in control at that point, then added insult to injury with third-period tallies courtesy of Feser and Evan Polei (power play). Defenceman Jordan Harris potted Swift Current’s second goal at 11:17, exactly two minutes after Polei connected.
The physical contest featured no less than nine fights, with eight of the bouts coming in the third period.
“The score was out of control and we saw what happened,” said Sutter. “One team was frustrated. You try and tell your team to be smart and stay away from it, but it is what it is.”
Bleackley understood the Broncos’ frustration.
“I’ve been on the other end of that in my career, but we’re not going to back down,” he said. “It’s good to see one way but you’d hate to see someone get hurt. We stood up for each other out there and fortunately nobody got hurt.”
Child, who went back in after Bow was pulled following Red Deer’s final goal, turned aside eight of 11 shots. Bow stopped 12 of 15 during his 24 minutes between the pipes.
Rebels netminder Rylan Toth outplayed both Broncos stoppers with a solid 28-save performance.
“We didn’t have our best game,but when you look at the scoreclock we obviously beared down on our opportunities,” said Bleackley. “We started slow in the first period and picked it up in the second, but it was a good effort. We did what we had to do to win and we’re looking forward to Tuesday’s game (versus the visiting Calgary Hitmen).