Hitmen 6 Rebels 3
If Red Deer Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin visits a Hallmark Cards store any time soon, you can bet he won’t be purchasing a Christmas greeting for Western Hockey League referee Pat Smith.
Smith riled Wallin and the majority of the announced gathering of 4,066 at the Centrium on Tuesday when he shrugged off a blatant second-period hit by Calgary Hitmen forward Tyler Fiddler, from behind, on Josh Cowen, who tumbled head-first into the boards.
Smith then assessed Jordie Deagle four minutes for roughing and a misconduct for attempting to exact a measure of revenge on Fiddler, and slapped Wallin with a minor when the Rebels mentor slammed the bench door following a heated discussion with the official. Call it an 11-minute swing, assuming Fiddler had been tagged with the major he deserved.
The Hitmen promptly snapped a 2-2 tie with a pair of power-play goals from Michael Stone and Brandon Kozun and eventually secured a 6-3 win in a contest that was much closer than the score.
“It’s disappointing. I thought the turning point of the hockey game was the (incident) in the second period. The referee and I obviously had a very different view of that (non-call), and quite frankly I’ve got quite a bit of confusion as to how that works,” said Wallin.
“It was a tight hockey game up to that point and a (non) call I wasn’t very happy with was the turning point in the game for us.”
The Rebels, still stunned by the turn of events, gave up another goal to Hitmen forward and Red Deer native Chase Schaber shortly after returning to even strength, and the night was over for Red Deer starting netminder Darcy Kuemper, who blocked 15 of 20 shots.
Kraymer Barnstable relieved Kuemper and stopped 17 of 18 shots the rest of the way.
The home side charged back following a time out called by Wallin and created a multitude of chances late in the period and early in the final frame, finally getting a power-play goal from Nathan Green at 4:21 of the third.
“I didn’t think here was any quit in us at all,” said Wallin, who lost defenceman Nick Bell to an ankle injury in the second period and then had to do without Deagle, who had replaced Bell on the blueline, for an extended stretch.
“We were running four defencemen for quite a while and I thought those guys wore down a bit and showed some fatigue in the third period,” said Wallin.
“Yet they battled hard. We got that third goal and if we had capitalized on another power play we could have turned the tables a bit.
“Our approach going into the third period was that we were still in the hockey game. We went after them in the third, but at the end of the day it’s disappointing when the players don’t decide the game.”
The Rebels, who got a first-period power-play goal from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and an even-strength marker from Andrej Kudrna early in the middle stanza, were continually stymied by Calgary netminder Martin Jones, who finished with 33 saves, and a series of bad bounces. Joel Broda (power play) and Austin Madaisky accounted for the first two Hitmen goals, and the visitors also struck late in the game when Stone converted a nifty drop-pass from Kozun.
“We ended up on the power play in the second period and the puck found its way to the back of the net for us,” said Hitmen head coach Mike Williamson. “I thought Red Deer really came on after that, especially after Jesse called the time out. We got some big stops from Jones and the second period ended at a good time for us.”
In the end, the Hitmen bent, but didn’t break, and were also three-for-six on the power play.
“In our heads that wasn’t a 6-3 hockey game in the end,” said Green. “We were with those guys all the way and outworked them most of the game. That’s kind of disappointing to lose like that, but at the same time our penalty kill has to be better than what we were tonight.”
As for the second-period controversy . . .
“Those (non) calls happen all the time. At the time you don’t think too highly of it, but you can’t get too frustrated about it or you’ll get completely off your game,” said Green.
The line of Green, Kudrna and Willie Coetzee was dangerous the entire evening.
“They’re two highly skilled players,” said Green. “We really lucked out in getting Andrej from Vancouver (in a late-September trade). It’s been a delight playing with those guys so far and we could have three or four more goals tonight if the bounces had gone our way.”
Game in brief
With the game tied 2-2 nearing the seven-minute mark of the second period, Hitmen forward Tyler Fiddler checked Josh Cowen from behind and slammed the Rebels forward head-first into the boards near the Red Deer blueline. Instead of calling Fiddler for the blatant infraction, referee Pat Smith doled out a double roughing minor to the Rebels’ Jordie Deagle, who took the incident personally and attacked the guilty party. Smith then assessed Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin a bench minor for showing his disgust in the non-call, and the visitors took control of the game with a pair of power-play goals.
Heaviest hit/Fight Card
Fiddler delivered the most devastating hit of the game, illegal as it was.
In the only bout of the evening, Rebels forward Connor Redmond started slow but finished strong against Austin Madaisky. Call it a draw.
Rebels forward and WHL scoring leader Willie Coetzee extended his points streak to eight games with a pair of assists.
Meanwhile, teammates Andrej Kudrna, with a goal and a single helper, and Nick Bell, with an assist, ran their string to four games . . . Rebels 20-year-old centre Nathan Green, acquired from Brandon during the summer, appeared in his 190th WHL game . . . Red Deer has beaten Calgary just once in their last nine meetings. The win, 3-1 at the Centrium, was recorded on Feb. 8 of last year (2008). The clubs don’t meet again until Feb. 24 in Calgary.
Advocate’s three stars
1. Michael Stone . .. Two goals and an assist for the Calgary defenceman, a perilous presence on the power play.
2. Nathan Green . . . Rebels forward scored once, set up another goal and controlled the pace with his heads-up play.
3. Martin Jones . . . Hitmen goalie held the hard-charging Rebels at bay for extended flurries and finished with 33 saves.
The Rebels are in Medicine Hat on Friday to face the Tigers, then host the Seattle Thunderbirds next Tuesday.