For the second night in succession the Red Deer Rebels didn’t have their ‘A’ game, but still put a ‘W’ in the books.
The Rebels were outshot 36-33 by the visiting Kootenay Ice while prevailing 4-3 in a WHL game Saturday at the Centrium, roughly 24 hours after withstanding a strong third-period charge by the Medicine Hat Tiger and posting a 3-1 home-ice triumph.
“We found a way to win. It was a battle,” Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter said following Saturday’s contest that was viewed by 5,547 patrons. “I thought we started fine but we got a little bit sloppy. You can tell we haven’t had a lot of practice time the last two to two and a half weeks, just from some of our details, from how we like to play with and without the puck.
“There were times in our zone we had some passive plays. But Marty (Rebels netminder Trevor Martin) played well. This weekend we got good goaltending from both of our guys (including Friday winner Rylan Toth), which is important.”
The Ice led just once in the contest, when Vince Loschiavo — with his first of the season — opened the scoring at 10:38 of the first period.
From there, Rebels defenceman Braden Purtill caught the far low corner of the net with a point shot at 3:12 of the second period and Ivan Nikolishin, with his first of two goals on the evening, gave the hosts a 2-1 lead just over eight minutes later with a power-play slapper from the high slot.
Luke Philp pulled Kootenay even with a man-advantage marker at 13:48 of the middle frame, beating Martin over the shoulder, setting the stage for a third period in which the Rebels scored twice to nail down the win.
“I think we started playing pretty sloppy, but during the game we picked it up and in third period we were almost playing our best. We were happy we got the win,” said Nikolishin, who snapped a 2-2 tie with a second power-play marker at 8:45 of the final frame.“Both of them were power play and both times were very nice screens,” said Nikolishin. “First it was Bleacks (Conner Bleackley) in front screening the goalie and the second time it was Pawly (Grayson Pawlenchuk). I think that’s why I scored, because of them. I want to say thank you for screening the goalie that well.”
Pawlenchuk sniped the eventual winner at 13:35, whipping a feed from Michael Spacek to the top of the net, and Philp netted his second of the evening with 21 seconds remaining and netminder Wyatt Hoflin on the bench in favour of an extra attacker.
“You have to find a way to win games,” said Sutter. “You go through times during the year when you have to do that, and if you’re a good team you usually do find a way.
“It comes down to the group having confidence in the dressing room, knowing that if things aren’t going exactly how we want to play, that we have to weather through it. We have to stick to the basics and try and find a way. Tonight was another of those examples.”
The fact that the Rebels were two-for-five on the power play was a definite positive.
“We moved the puck well and got some quality looks, but their goalie saw every shot in the first period. We weren’t battling to get into the tough areas and were allowing soft plays at the same time,” said Sutter.
“But as the game went on we started moving pucks and having net front presence. Both of Nik’s goals were scored through traffic.”
The Rebels return to game action Friday when the Spokane Chiefs make their first visit to the Centrium since Oct. 12 of 2013.
• Rebels forward Jeff de Wit was struck in the throat by the puck in the second period and experienced problems getting back to his feet. He stayed down on the ice for several minutes before being helped off the playing surface and taken to Red Deer Regional Hospital.
“Obviously something like that is really concerning,” said Sutter. “But when he left the doctors didn’t seem to be too concerned. It was more precautionary getting him to the hospital.
“He’s going to be sore, the puck hit him right in the neck. Hopefully he’ll be OK.”
• Red Deer winger Evan Polei sat out Saturday’s contest after taking a high hit from Medicine Hat’s Ryan Jevne Friday.
“He got his bell rung and it’s a situation where he’s on (concussion) protocol,” said Sutter. “He had initial symptoms but by the time the game was over he was fine and he said he was fine today.
“He wanted to play, but we wanted to make sure we were careful with that and manage it properly.”