PRINCE ALBERT — The Red Deer Rebels finally put the brakes on a difficult Western Hockey League stretch Tuesday, but it was anything but easy.
The Rebels got a shootout goal from Riley Sheen and defeated the Prince Albert Raiders 2-1 before 2,230 fans at the Art Hauser Centre, snapping a four-game losing streak in the process.
“It was a hard-fought, close game,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “For the most part, I liked the way we played. But I liked the way we played against Prince George at home, too.”
With any kind of puck luck, the Rebels would have held their losing string to three games Saturday against visiting Prince George, but fell 3-2 in overtime despite holding a healthy advantage in shots on goal and time of puck possession.
The Rebels, in fact, could have won both of their weekend home dates, but instead were 2-1 losers to the Lethbridge Hurricanes 24 hours before falling to the Cougars.
On Tuesday, the team was finally rewarded.
“What I’ve liked about our last three games is we’ve tightened things up,” said Sutter. “We’ve been better defensively. We’re not giving up as many shots and as many quality scoring chances and we’re creating some ourselves, which is obviously what you want.
“Tonight was kind of a carryover from the game on Saturday.”
The Rebels never trailed in the contest as Scott Feser opened the scoring 3:23 into the second period, beating Raiders netminder Rylan Parenteau through the wickets for his 11th goal of the season.
The Raiders answered just over 13 minutes later when Matteo Gennaro potted his 10th of the season with Red Deer defenceman Brett Cote serving a tripping penalty. Neither team could connect through the remaining 23 minutes and change of regulation time and then through the five-minute extra session, setting the stage for the shootout.
The Raiders, who opened the skills competition with Simon Stransky, were foiled three times by Rebels netminder Rylan Toth, his save on third shooter Reid Gardner sealing the deal after the previous shooter, Sheen, had beaten Parenteau with a backhand.
“The important thing for us is just doing things the right way and playing the way we want to play,” said Sutter, who has always been a stickler for playing strong defensive hockey.
“We’ve had lots of scoring opportunities but we haven’t been capitalizing on those chances. But we’ve also limited the chances against, which is going to be important going down the stretch and into the playoffs.”
Toth made 29 saves and was named first star of the game. Taz Burman didn’t dress for the game as Trevor Martin was summoned from the Melville Millionaires of the SJHL to serve as Toth’s back-up.
Martin, who was acquired from the Saskatoon Blades in early January, will get the start tonight against his former WHL team as the Rebels resume their four-game road trip at the Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon. Toth will get the day off as Burman will dress as the back-up netminder.
The Rebels will conclude their trip with games Friday and Saturday against the Swift Current Broncos and Regina Pats.
• The Rebels, zero-for-two on the power play, fired 28 shots at Parenteau through 65 minutes . . . The second and third stars were Feser and Raiders forward Craig Leverton.