MEDICINE HAT — Perhaps the Red Deer Rebels should apply for a permit to play their remaining two WHL home games away from the Centrium.
The Rebels, after all, have enjoyed more success on the road than at home this season with an 18-15-1-0 slate on enemy ice, a record that was boosted by a 2-1 shootout win over the Medicine Hat Tigers Wednesday a mere 24 hours following a 4-0 victory over the Kootenay Ice at Cranbrook.
“It’s something that has to do with being a younger team. We’re a more focused group on the road with fewer distractions,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter.
That was certainly the case Wednesday before 4,006 fans at the Medicine Hat Arena, just as it was Tuesday at Cranbrook.
“The kids played hard. They battled and competed really hard tonight,” said Sutter. “We were good in a lot of areas tonight. We battled and competed and I liked our overall game. We played a real good road game.”
The Rebels also got a 40-save performance from Patrik Bartosak, who shut out the Ice 24 hours earlier. Bartosak also turned away all three Tigers shooters — Curtis Valk, Mikes Koules and Cole Sanford — following a scoreless overtime frame.
“We need goaltending which Patty gives us, but our whole team was good tonight,” said Sutter. “It was kind of a carryover from last night.”
Conner Bleackley potted the lone goal of the shootout and scored the Rebels’ only goal in regulation time. The Red Deer captain worked out of the corner and beat Tigers netminder Marek Langhamer high to the short side at 17:46 of the second period to tie the game at 1-1.
Medicine Hat forward Anthony Ast opened the scoring 10 minutes earlier, tipping a shot by Koules past Bartosak, who signed a three-year NHL entry-level contract with the Los Angeles Kings Tuesday.
The victory moved the Rebels two points in front of the Prince Albert Raiders in the battle for eighth place — and the final playoff berth — in the Eastern Conference and within two points of seventh-place Brandon.
“Now we have to play well at home Friday,” said Sutter, in reference to a meeting with the visiting Swift Current Broncos. “Our situation now is that the (remaining) games are all big.”
The Rebels have five regular-season games remaining, including a return visit to Medicine Hat Saturday, a home date with the Ice Wednesday and a home-and-home with the Edmonton Oil Kings March 15-16.
• Bartosak, who was selected by the Kings in the fifth round of last year’s NHL entry draft and earned a pro contract due to his stellar play this season, was selected as the first star of Wednesday’s outing. Langhamer, who made 34 saves in regulation time, was named second star and Bleackley got third-star billing . . . The Rebels were zero-for-two on the power play and didn’t have to kill a single penalty. The Tigers were assessed the only two minors and the clubs split two fighting majors when Rebels forward Wyatt Johnson went to-to-toe with Blake Penner in the third period.