The Everett Silvertips looked like they had awoken from hibernation through the first period of Saturday’s WHL outing at the Centrium.
From there, though, the Red Deer Rebels were loaded for bear and took it to the ‘Tips, prevailing 4-1 before a noisy gathering of 7,005.
Aided by three Red Deer penalties — at least one of the questionable variety — the ‘Tips outshot their hosts 15-8 in the opening frame and took a 1-0 lead into the intermission on a power-play tally by Graham Millar, who tipped Noah Juulsen’s point shot through the pads of goalie Trevor Martin.
“It wasn’t that we were bad either, it’s just that they really came at us,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter.”They forechecked hard.”
The Rebels were clearly the better team the rest of the way, firing three goals in the middle frame and sealing the deal with a third-period marker.
“We made some adjustments between periods and then a few more during a timeout, and I thought that helped us,” said Sutter. “We were really solid the last two periods. I thought that second period was as good a period as we’ve played all year.”
The Rebels lost veteran scorer Conner Bleackley to an apparent leg injury during the contest but the team’s supporting cast came through in a big way, with bottom-six forwards Brandon Hagel and Grayson Pawlenchuk both connecting and Hagel and Jeff de Wit each picking up two assists.
“The guys stepped up and we needed that,” said Sutter. “Bleacks went down and we had to change our lines. I thought the guys all responded. To a man, everyone did a great job.
“Our defence got pucks up the ice quickly. Our transition game was good and Marty (Martin) was solid.”
Adam Helewka got the Rebels on the board 5:15 into the second period on a redirection of a tape-to-tape feed from Michael Spacek, and Colton Bobyk scored the eventual winner at 9:59 with a power-play bullet from the point.
Pawlenchuk upped the count to 3-1 three minutes later by burying a rebound and Hagel rounded out the scoring at 4:55 of the final frame.
The Rebels directed 25 shots at Everett netminder Carter Hart, while Martin, who got the start after replacing Rylan Toth for the third period, overtime session and shootout in Friday’s 5-4 loss to the visiting Swift Current Broncos, faced 29.
“Marty played a heck of a game here tonight,” said Sutter. “He made some big saves at key times.”
One such stop was on Jake Christiansen, who broke in alone with the ‘Tips already up 1-0.
“If he (Martin) hadn’t stopped that breakaway we would have been down 2-0 quickly,” said Sutter. “He kept us close and give us a chance to get going. I was happy with his game, but overall our effort was very good this weekend. I was very happy with the way the kids played.”
Martin’s starts have been few and far between this season, but he’s kept himself focused in the event he gets the call.
“I think it’s been a long time coming. I’ve been working really hard with Taylor (Rebels goaltending coach Dakers) on and off the ice,” said the 19-year-old. “I think it was just a really good group effort tonight, too. Everyone just zoned in and we put a full 60 (minutes) together.
“It was tough that they got that first-period goal, but as soon as it went in we just settled down and we took the game over from there. The guys did a great job of blocking shots, as they always do, and when the puck got out to the point they made sure they boxed out the other guys.
“Everett has a big team and we handled them very well.”
Sutter suggested that Martin is the ultimate team player.
“He knows his role and yet I love his attitude,” said the Rebels boss.
“He knows there’s a chance he may not play as many games as he would like, but at the same time he’s got that mindset and attitude that he wants to push to be our No. 1 guy.
“That’s what I love to have from a player in that position. At the same time it keeps Tother on his toes and we need Tother to stay sharp too.”
After replacing a shaky Toth in Friday’s loss to the Broncos in a game the Rebels dominated, handing the reins to Martin 24 hours later was a no-brainer for Sutter.
“Tother fought it in the first two periods (Friday) and Marty went in and battled and played well, so I thought we’d give him a start tonight and he responded really well,” said Sutter.
The Rebels are idle until the weekend when they close out a five-game homestand by hosting the Kootenay Ice and Brandon Wheat Kings Friday and Saturday.