EDMONTON — In contrast to Wednesday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the host Calgary Hitmen 48 hours earlier, the Red Deer Rebels were sharp from start to finish Friday at Rexall Place.
There was scarcely a lull in their intensity as they struck for four unanswered third-period goals and dropped the Edmonton Oil Kings 6-2 in a Western Hockey League contest viewed by 16,014 fans.
“We played 60 minutes here tonight,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter.
“All four lines were going and our defence played well. Our game was much more defined (than was the case Wednesday). We were under control tonight.”
Riley Sheen and Brooks Maxwell, selected as the first two stars of the evening, each collected three points, with Sheen scoring twice and Maxwell potting his 27th goal of the season.
Maxwell, in fact, opened the scoring with a short-handed tally at 17:02 of the opening period. The lead held up until Lane Bauer notched a power-play goal 2:42 into the middle stanza.
Red Deer got the lead back at 8:06 when Sheen scored his 23rd of the season, but the hosts pulled even again when Brandon Baddock connected late in the period.
From there, it was all Red Deer. Defenceman Nelson Nogier scored the eventual winner at 3:30 of the final frame and Wyatt Johnson, Scott Feser and Sheen followed suit to put the wraps on the convincing victory.
The Rebels got a 32-save performance from Taz Burman, who outplayed veteran Tristan Jarry. The Oil Kings goaltender also stopped 32 shots.
“Burms made some big saves,” said Sutter. “Their second goal was a bad goal, but other than that he was pretty solid.”
The performance was precisely what Sutter was hoping to see with the playoffs opening next weekend.
“We wanted to be a 60-minute team tonight, we wanted to show good habits,” said the Rebels boss.
“We wanted to have a mindset that it’s time to get ready for playoffs and we have to be doing things the right way.”
The Rebels’ penalty kill, a strength all season, was big-time impressive as the Oil Kings were a mere one-for-seven with a man advantage.
“Our penalty killing was very good,” said Sutter, whose team enjoyed just one power play. “They had a five-on-three for a full minutes and we didn’t give them much. Our penalty killers did a great job.”
l Red Deer captain Conner Bleackley will finally draw back into the lineup tonight at the Enmax Centrium when the Rebels close out their regular-season schedule against the Oil Kings.
Bleackley hasn’t played since suffering a groin injury Feb. 6 at Vancouver.
l The Rebels are well aware of the fact that they’ll finish third in the Central Division. What they don’t know is who they will face in the first round of post-season play.
The Calgary Hitmen hung onto first place in the division with a 2-1 win over the host Kootenay Ice Friday, while the Medicine Hat Tigers remained a point behind with a 3-1 win at Saskatoon. The Tigers will host the Blades in their final regular-season contest tonight and the Hitmen will entertain the Ice Sunday.
Red Deer will play the second-place team in the opening round.