All hands were on deck for a second consecutive night as the Red Deer Rebels rolled to a 5-1 Western Hockey League win over the Moose Jaw Warriors Saturday.
Coming off a complete-team effort in Friday’s 6-3 victory over the visiting Prince George Cougars, the Rebels turned in a similar performance against the Warriors before a recorded gathering of 4,491 at the Enmax Centrium.
“It was really a strong team game. I was really happy with everyone in our lineup, right from (goaltender Rylan) Toth right on through,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter, who watched his two best players — centre Conner Bleackley and defenceman Haydn Fleury — perform to their lofty standards.
Bleackley scored once and picked up a pair of helpers and Fleury was a two-way force the entire evening.
“When your top guys are where they need to be, it allows everyone else to settle in and play their game too,” said Sutter. “I thought both Haydn and Bleacks played very well this weekend. And all of our other older guys were good too . . . right down the line.”
Wyatt Johnson squeezed a shot past Moose Jaw netminder Justin Paulic to open the scoring 13:25 into the contest and the lead held up until Kolten Olynek notched a short-handed, two-on-one goal at 2:55 of the middle stanza.
Bleackley converted a fine feed from rookie Jeff de Wit just over five minutes later and his third tally of the season proved to be the winner. Evan Polei connected from close range and Meyer Nell cashed Kayle Doetzel’s nifty pass from the point before the period was over.
Scott Feser closed out the scoring with a third-period short-handed goal, beating Paulic after taking a two-on-one feed from Bleackley.
The losers of five in a row and the owners of a 3-7-1-0 record prior to the weekend, the Rebels decided to take a new approach and embrace a fresh start.
So far, so good.
“We hit the reset button and started our season over this weekend and said we need to play a 61-game season now,” said Sutter. “Everyone is back in the right frame of mind and with the right attitude, now we just have to continue to carry it through. When we think and play the right way, we’re a good hockey team.”
Fleury said the key to the back-to-back wins was the Rebels’ ability to handle misfortune, such as the Warriors’ short-handed goal.
“We played the full 60 minutes tonight and anything that came our way, we seemed to deal with it really well,” he said. “We dealt with adversity way better than we did during the last two weeks.”
As for his own performance….
“I kind of had some time to get refreshed last week and get refocused on what I need to do each and every night,” said the Carolina Hurricanes prospect. “I’ve been preparing a bit differenty and it showed the last two nights.”
Toth had a relatively easy night while stopping 22 shots. The Rebels fired 35 shots at Paulic.
The Rebels host the Medicine Hat Tigers Tuesday at 7 p.m., then head out on a six-game road trip starting Friday against the Kootenay Ice. Red Deer is in Spokane the following night, then visits the Seattle Thunderbirds, Everett Silvertips, Portland Winterhawks and Tri-City Americans over the next seven days.