Rebels 4 Oil Kings 1
The defending WHL champion Edmonton Oil Kings brought out the best in the Red Deer Rebels Thursday at the Centrium.
“Obviously they’re a great hockey team and we have to play to our maximum abilities to have success and it doesn’t matter who we’re playing against,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter following his club’s 4-1 win before a recorded gathering of 5,161.
The Rebels got a hat-trick performance from Rhyse Dieno and a stellar 36-save performance from Patrik Bartosak while improving to 25-18-3-2.
Bartosak was sharp throughout the contest and came up with some game-saving stops in the third period with the Rebels up 2-1. Included was a brilliant glove save on T.J. Foster.
“Our goaltender made some great saves, some highlight-reel saves with the game on the line,” said Sutter. “That was the TSN turning point, Bryce (assistant coach Thoma) said.”
Meanwhile, the Rebels turned in one of their best efforts of the season, getting a first-period goal from Dieno — who tipped in a pass from Brady Gaudet — and surviving a difficult second period in which they were outplayed for the first 10 minutes.
“Getting the first goal was huge for us in terms of allowing us to play with the lead,” said Sutter.
“We knew we were facing a big test tonight and we were prepared for it.”
The visitors ruled the first half of the middle frame and finally pulled even when defenceman Keegan Lowe jumped up into the play and slid the puck under Bartosak during a goalmouth scramble.
“For the first 10 minutes of the second we were on our heels. We turned the puck over 11 times in the defensive zone when we had a chance to make a play or get it out,” said Sutter.
“You’re playing with fire when you’re playing like that against the Oil Kings and we had to rely on our goaltender. But after that we played well.”
Indeed, the Rebels came on in the second half of the middle frame, then got a trio of third-period goals.
Dieno potted the eventual winner at 8:20 of the third period after taking a breakaway stretch pass from Scott Feser, and captain Turner Elson accepted a feed from Brandon Underwood and scored from the high slot six minutes later.
Dieno sealed the deal with an empty-net marker with one minute remaining.
“On my first goal (Edmonton netminder Laurent) Brossoit had just robbed me so I had to get one on that shift,” said Dieno. “Feser send me in with a nice pass on the second one and on that last one Maxie (linemate Brooks Maxwell) made a nice play to get the puck out.”
While Dieno was fully deserving of his first-star status, he was quick to credit Bartosak for the victory.
“He was unbelievable and he’s been that way night in and night out,” said Dieno. “I can’t say enough about him.
“He came back from the world juniors and he’s even better now than he was in the first half of the season. He’s been unreal.”
Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal refused to give Bartosak the entire credit for the outcome.
“I won’t say it was a matter of a hot goaltender, I’d say it was a lack of work ethic on our part,” said Laxdal. “We had 37 shots tonight but a lot were from the perimeter.”
Instead, Laxdal credited the Rebels as a whole while defending Brossoit, who also came up with a series of big-time stops.
“Red Deer probably had 10 or 15 quality scoring chances and they had a bigger compete level than we did tonight,” he said. “It’s not sitting well with me right now but Red Deer definitely deserved the win tonight.
“Our goalie was outstanding and I can’t fault him on any of the goals. It could have been a lot uglier than it was.”
Laxdal felt that his club was harbouring too many fond memories of their last game at the Centrium, a 6-1 thumping of the Rebels Dec. 28.
“Our guys thought it was going to be as easy as that game and Red Deer gave us a bit of a lesson in work ethic tonight,” said the Oil Kings bench boss.
The Rebels return to action Saturday at the Centrium against the Prince George Cougars.
° Advocate’s three stars: (1) Rhyse Dieno — Hat trick performance; (2) Patrik Bartosak — Rebels MVP was up to his usual tricks; (3) Laurent Brossoit — Oil Kings netminder was rock solid in defeat.