The Red Deer Rebels were waiting for this type of performance from Charles Inglis.
The 19-year-old centre — acquired from the Prince George Cougars in late December — scored once and assisted on a pair of goals as the Rebels downed the Vancouver Giants 4-2 in a WHL contest Wednesday before a recorded gathering of 4,203 at the Centrium.
“I felt all right, but there’s a couple of things I could still do better,” said Inglis, following his . . .. ahem . . . relatively gigantic output.
“I have to make sure that I’m putting pucks wide and getting pucks deep. I thought I played better tonight but I still have to be better.”
Still, Inglis was tickled with the fact he was finally able to pot a home-ice goal as a member of the Rebels.
“It was nice to put one in. I don’t care how they go in now, I’m just trying to get the puck into the back of the net.”
Inglis beat Giants 15-year-old netminder Payton Lee with a blast from the right faceoff circle at 9:22 of the second period. The goal snapped a 2-2 tie and stood up as the winner, coming just five minutes after Rebels 15-year-old affiliate forward Conner Bleackley had connected on a rising wrist shot from 15 feet inside the Vancouver blueline.
“That was something special, probably something I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” said Bleackley, who’s a lock to earn full-time employment with the Rebels next season.
“I just wish we could skip forward (to the 2012-13 WHL season) right now,” added the midget AAA UFA Bisons forward, who appeared in his sixth game with the Rebels Wednesday. “Every game I’ve played here has been a blast.”
Unlike many of their earlier efforts in January, the Rebels were strong out of the gate, but gave up a goal to Cain Franson, who scored on a wrap-around after a bad-luck turnover by Red Deer defenceman Alex Petrovic five minutes into the game.
The Rebels replied seven minutes later when John Persson back-handed a rebound past Lee following a power-play shot by defenceman Mathew Dumba that bounced off the end boards.
Nathan Burns stepped around Rebels defenceman Cody Thiel, moved across the crease and slipped the puck past netminder Deven Dubyk early in the second period, setting the stage for Bleackley’s equalizer, the go-ahead marker from Inglis and a so-called insurance marker from Colten Mayor at 15:20 of the middle stanza.
The victory pulled Red Deer to within four points of the Brandon Wheat Kings, who fell 6-0 at Calgary and hold down eighth place in the Eastern Conference. The Rebels have played three fewer games than the Wheat Kings, who visit the Centrium Saturday, 24 hours after the Rebels host the Tri-City Americans.
“We knew we had to come out hard tonight,” said Inglis. “We beat Prince George (Saturday) and played real well in Calgary (in a 4-2 loss Sunday), so we’re a confident group. We knew we had to stick to the details tonight no matter what the score was and it came out in our favour.”
Rebels GM/head coach Jesse Wallin was clearly relieved — and also somewhat proud — to see Inglis break out Wednesday.
“I thought that was probably his best game since he’s been here,” said the Rebels bench boss. “Charles had to relax a bit. He’s wanted to make a difference ever since he’s been here and he’s been pressing.
“Sometimes less is more. He was playing a bit of an individualistic game when he got here and wasn’t producing. We had a good talk yesterday about him just being a good player within the team and he did a good job of that tonight. He was moving the puck and jumping into the holes and he just had a very good game.”
As did the Rebels, in general.
“We came out and established the way we wanted to play early in the game,” said Wallin. “We came out focused and with a lot of intensity, and even thought we gave up the first goal on a tough break, we stuck with it.
“Our power play came though for us and our penalty kill (three-for-three) was very good. Overall we played with a lot of tenacity and did a good job on the forecheck.”
Dubyk finished with 29 saves in the Rebels net. Lee was replaced by Jackson Whistle at the start of the third period after stopping 26 of 30 shots; Whistle blocked all 11 shots he faced.