They won it for Kale.
With heavy hearts following the Sunday death of Kale Williams — the son of Red Deer Rebels vice-president of marketing and sales Dean Williams and a close friend of the players — the Rebels turned in a spirited performance and defeated the Prince George Cougars 4-1 in a WHL game Wednesday.
“It was a great effort by all the boys. We were focused and prepared for this game and had a lot on the line tonight as we all heard before the anthem ( a moment of silence in memory of their buddy),” said Rebels defenceman Mathew Dumba, who contributed three assists in front of a recorded gathering of 4,258 at the Centrium.
“The loss of Kale was pretty big and it was awesome to see all the boys rally together and get a win for him. We know he’s looking down on us and we know he’s happy tonight. I was just really proud of everyone in our room.”
The red-hot Rhyse Dieno opened the scoring 15:27 into the contest and added the eventual winner three minutes later. On the first tally, defenceman Haydn Fleury carried the puck up the left side and fed Dieno, who was facing an open net, and on the second goal — with Red Deer on the power play — Dumba faked a shot from the high slot and found Dieno, who beat Cougars netminder Mac Engel to the short side for his 23rd of the season.
The Rebels added another man-advantage marker in the middle frame when Matt Bellerive worked his way behind the Prince George goal and slipped a centering pass to Joel Hamilton, who one-timed a shot past Red Deer native Engel for his ninth of the season.
The Red Deer power play, which has been somewhat of a sore spot this winter, was two-for-seven on the night and created multiple scoring opportunities.
“We were moving the puck so crisp. Everything was just tape-to-tape and everyone was on the same page,” said Dumba. “It just worked out for us tonight.”
Brooks Maxwell notched Red Deer’s fourth goal at 2:42 of the final frame, sliding the rebound of a Dumba point shot under Engel, who finished with 31 saves — including several of the top-notch variety — and couldn’t be faulted for any of the pucks that eluded him.
The Cougars spoiled Patrik Bartosak’s shutout bid with just three minutes remaining, with Zach Pochiro pulling the trigger while being hooked in the low slot.
Bartosak was outstanding, turning aside 32 shots for his 24th win of the season.
The visitors, just two points back of the eighth-place Seattle Thunderbirds in the Western Conference, played like a desperate team and forced Bartosak to come up big on several occasions.
“Our goaltender was good, but overall as a team we had moments where we played really well and moments where we got off track a bit as far as just decision-making and puck management,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter.
“But it’s been a tough week and credit to the kids — they played hard and that’s all we can ask of them. They did a good job that way and they competed and created some scoring chances. We scored a couple of big goals on the power play and that’s something we needed to do. Again, considering the circumstances this week, I’m very pleased.”
The Rebels host the Victoria Royals at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
• Advocate’s three stars: (1) Dieno . . . Scored twice and had multiple chances to get his hat trick; (2) Dumba . . . Three assists and a two-way threat all evening; (3) Bartosak . . . Just another night at the office for the Rebels standout stopper.
• Overage forward Jordan DePape, added to the Rebels roster Jan. 10, arrived in Red Deer Sunday and is skating with the club. The former Kamloops Blazer and Winnipeg native is recovering from shoulder surgery performed in November and is slated to return to action for Red Deer’s final two regular-season games — a home-and-home set with the Edmonton Oil Kings March 15-16.
• Olds product and former Rebels forward Daulton Siwak, who left the Cougars in early January and was suspended as a result, has joined the Dauphin Kings of the MJHL. He made his debut with the Kings Tuesday and scored a goal in a 7-3 win over Neepawa.