MOOSE JAW — The Red Deer Rebels’ fuel gauge was reading empty as the buzzer sounded to end the overtime period on Sunday evening at Mosaic Place.
Still, the Rebels had just enough petro on board to defeat the Moose Jaw Warriors in a Western Hockey League shootout, prevailing 4-3 before 3,749 spectators.
Matt Bellerive notched the lone goal in the shootout and then watched as the Warriors’ third shooter, Sam Fioretti, rang a shot off the crossbar behind Rebels netminder Patrik Bartosak, who had stopped the first two Moose Jaw attempts.
Bartosak made 44 saves through regulation time and the five-minute extra frame.
“Patty was solid,” said Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin, who praised his entire squad for finding the necessary staying power while playing their fifth game in six nights.
“We had to gut it out,” Wallin added on Monday. “We played really, really well in the first period, we came out and played a real solid period. Then in the second they came out hard and you could kind of see us running out of gas. We were running on fumes by the end of the game. We’d played a lot of hockey but the guys really showed a lot of character by digging in and finding a way to get it done in the end.”
Mathew Dumba and Tyson Ness staked the Rebels to a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes, but the Warriors struck back with second-period markers from Fioretti and Andrew Johnson, then moved in front on a goal by Travis Brown at 15:07 of the third stanza.
The Rebels, however, forced overtime with a goal at 19:11 that was originally credited to Cory Millette but was given to Charles Inglis following a video review.
The victory was large, considering the Rebels were coming off a 2-1 loss to the Brandon Wheat Kings 24 hours earlier.
“The guys gave a good effort in Brandon, as well,” said Wallin. “It’s frustrating when you’re playing well and giving yourself a chance, and yet you’re just coming up a bit short. We did that in Regina (in a 3-2 loss on Friday) and again in Brandon, so it was big for us to come into Moose Jaw and get a win.”
Colten Mayor potted the lone Red Deer goal at Brandon’s Westman Place, connecting on a power play at 8:54 of the second period before a crowd of 3,862.
The lead didn’t last long, however, as defenceman Ryan Pulock — celebrating his 18th birthday — replied a mere 49 seconds later with a blast from the point. Pulock then notched the winner 1:19 into the third period with Inglis serving a charging penalty.
Bartosak made 27 saves, while Corbin Boes blocked 22 shots for the Wheat Kings.
Of Red Deer’s nine games to this point in the season, eight have been decided by one or two goals.
“We have to find a way to get above that line,” said Wallin. “We didn’t play well our first three games but since that time we’ve gotten progressively better. I thought we played a good hockey game at Prince Albert (in a 5-4 shootout loss last Tuesday) and played well in Saskatoon (in a 5-3 win on Wednesday). And I thought that for the most part we played well in both Regina and Brandon.
“But we just have to continue to push forward and find a way to get above that line consistently.”
The Rebels enjoyed a day off on Monday and close out their six-game trip tonight against the Swift Current Broncos.
“We’ve played a lot of hockey, five games in six nights, and yet it was by design,” said Wallin. “We knew we had this trip coming early. It was something we wanted to kind of challenge the group with and see how they responded.
“It showed a lot of character last night to dig in at the final buzzer the way we did. It was a huge win for us and a good character builder. Now we have to focus on getting some rest and then focus on playing a solid game tomorrow night and finishing the trip with a win.”
The Rebels host the Medicine Hat Tigers on Friday.