EDMONTON — One almost expects teams to be a little sluggish following the Christmas break.
That wasn’t the case with the Red Deer Rebels, and in particular goaltender Bolton Pouliot, as they jumped into a 3-0 lead and went on to down the Edmonton Oil Kings 5-3 in Western Hockey League action before 9,297 fans at Rexall Place Thursday.
And while the Oil Kings may have started slow they didn’t finish that way as they poured 56 shots on Pouliot, who was key in the Rebels shutting down the potent Edmonton power play that finished the night zero-for-six.
“It was one of those chance for chance games and speciality teams were huge,” said Rebels president/general manager/head coach Brent Sutter. “We were two-for-four wioth the man advantage and shut them down as Bolton played very well.”
The Rebels made some mistakes, then again so did the Oil Kings, who allowed 40 shots on goal.
“We were loose at times, but the first game after Christmas you don’t know what to expect. We gave them 50 some shots which on most nights is enough top win, but we had 40 some ourselves which should give us a chance to win. We got good goaltending and scored five goals. It was a good start after Christmas.”
The Rebels jumped on the Oil Kings 1:18 into the first period on Wyatt Johnson’s eighth goal of the season and his third in as many games. Turner Elson connected at 3:30 and Matt Dumba notched his first of two power play markers at 9:37. That resulted in a time out by the Oil Kings, who responded with goals by Michael St. Croix, his 20th of the season, at 12:17 and Travis Ewanyk at 18:36.
Brooks Maxwell scored what proved to be the winner for Red Deer at 3:27 of the second period before TJ Foster made it interesting with his 17th at 16:28.
Then it was the Pouliot story as he all but stood on his head to keep the Rebels ahead until they got a bit of breathing room at 16:32 of the third period on Dumba’s blast from the point beat goaltender Tristan Jarry.
The Rebels increased their record to 22-13-2-1 for 47 points and moved to within three points of the Calgary Hitmen and four of the Oil Kings (23-8-2-3).
“Some guys played well and some not as well as we wanted, but with that said to come in here and find a way to win a hockey game against a very good team was big,” said Sutter. “We have a certain way we have to play to have success and there were certain times tonight when we were on our toes and others we weren’t so good. But credit to them as well as they’re good and they have a group of forwards who are hard to play against.
“Overall I’m proud of the guys as they stuck to it when times weren’t so good. They weathered through it and that’s dealing with adversity. The biggest thing with the group is continuing to get stronger and stronger mentally and knowing how to handle adversity during a game and not allowing it to get to you. You have to rise to the occasion and respond the right way and we did a good job of that tonight.”
The two teams meet again tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Centrium and Sutter knows it will be even tougher.
“That’s our preparation. We did what we had to tonight, now we have to get ready for our game at home and we have to expect a tougher, harder game and be ready for it.”
l Domink Volek played his first game with the Rebels and assisted on Dumba’s first goal . . . Jarry, who lost for the first time in eight decisions, faced 39 shots while Laurent Brossoit made one save while in the game for 16 seconds following Red Deer’s second marker.