KENT, Wash. — The Red Deer Rebels’ WHL winning streak was halted at five games Tuesday despite firing 39 shots at Seattle Thunderbirds netminder Taran Kozun through 65 minutes.
Kozun made 37 saves, including 16 in the third period, and was named first star of the game as the T-Birds prevailed 3-2 in a shootout in front of 4,031 fans at the ShoWare Center.
The overage goaltender also foiled all three Red Deer shooters — Conner Bleackley, Meyer Nell and Tyler Sandhu — in the shootout. Meanwhile, Justin Hickman, who tallied twice in regulation time, potted Seattle’s lone shootout marker, while teammates Lane Pederson and Ryan Gropp failed to beat Rebels goalie Rylan Toth.
“He (Kozun) was the difference in the game,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “We had some great looks in the third, some very good opportunities, and he made some incredible saves.
“Then you get into a shootout and anything can happen when you get to that point. But I thought we played really hard tonight, we played really well.”
Hickman opened the scoring late in first period and notched a power-play goal 1:46 into the second stanza before Adam Musil replied for the Rebels 91 seconds later.
Brooks Maxwell pulled the visitors even with a short-handed tally at 4:49 of the third frame, beating Kozun with a sizzler after teammate Scott Feser forced a turnover with a big hit on Seattle star Mathew Barzal.
Toth finished with 31 saves as the clubs battled through two evenly-played periods before the Rebels carried the play in the third. The game featured five fights, all in the first 40 minutes.
“It was a really tough game for two periods, it was a hard, physical game,” said Sutter. “I think they thought they were going to come out and intimidate us and they didn’t do that. Our kids battled and competed. Our effort and battle level tonight was outstanding.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game and we came in prepared for it and answered the bell, too. We’ll take the single point, it’s a big point on the road.”
The one point earned gave the 8-7-1-1 Rebels 18 on the season and kept them in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, a single point up on Calgary and Regina.
The Rebels continue their six-game road trip tonight against the Everett Silvertips, then conclude the nine-day jaunt Friday and Saturday versus the Portland Winterhawks and Tri-City Americans.
• The Brandon Wheat Kings sent overage import forward Richard Nejezchleb to Tri-City Tuesday in exchange for a third-round pick in each of the 2015 and 2017 WHL bantam drafts. The Americans, in turn, placed overage forward Jackson Playfair, a former Rebels prospect, and import forward Semyon Krasheninnikov on waivers, and also traded 18-year-old forward Rod Southam — another one-time Rebels prospect — to the Kelowna Rockets in return for a conditional fifth-round pick in 2016.