Bartosak stellar between the pipes

Muhammad Ali would have been proud. The Red Deer Rebels staged their own version of the rope-a-dope Wednesday at the Centrium. The Rebels bent, but in the end didn’t break and posted a 4-2 Western Hockey League win over the Kamloops Blazers before a recorded crowd of 4,231.

Kamloops Blazer goaltender Cam Lanigan and defensemen Bronson Maschmeyer defend against Red Deer Rebel Chad Robinson During second period action at the Centrium on Wednesday.

Kamloops Blazer goaltender Cam Lanigan and defensemen Bronson Maschmeyer defend against Red Deer Rebel Chad Robinson During second period action at the Centrium on Wednesday.

Rebels 4 Blazers 2

Muhammad Ali would have been proud.

The Red Deer Rebels staged their own version of the rope-a-dope Wednesday at the Centrium. The Rebels bent, but in the end didn’t break and posted a 4-2 Western Hockey League win over the Kamloops Blazers before a recorded crowd of 4,231.

The visitors used their speed and cycling skills to keep the Rebels hemmed in their own end for lengthy stretches, particularly through the final 10 minutes of the game while trailing 3-2.

However, netminder Patrik Bartosak was stellar and the Rebels found a way to hold off the Blazers and eventually gain the victory. Red Deer tallied twice in a span of 24 seconds to erase a 2-1 deficit early in the third period and Turner Elson’s empty-net goal in the final minute — following a turnover at the Kamloops blueline — sealed the deal.

“I thought the effort was good. We battled hard but we spent too much time in our own zone,” said Rebels GM/head coach Jesse Wallin. “It was kind of similar to the game the other night (a 4-1 win Sunday over visiting Regina) where we just didn’t show a lot of poise with the puck at times.”

The Rebels struck first as Colten Mayor — with Blazers captain Chase Schaber serving a high sticking penalty — pounced on a rebound and beat netminder Cam Lanigan to the short side just 2:45 into the contest.

The Blazers responded five minutes later when JT Barnett avoided a check at the Rebels blueline and fed a streaking Brendan Ranford, who promptly sniped his seventh goal of the season.

“The goal that they got was off a couple of turnovers,” said Wallin. “We didn’t get the puck deep and we got a little bit back on our heels. We just have to be more composed and poised with the puck.”

The Rebels had a two-man advantage early in the middle frame, but Barnett stepped out of the penalty box, sped off on a short-handed breakaway and gave the Blazers a 2-1 lead with a nifty move on Bartosak.

The visitors held their own two-man advantage for 74 seconds late in the period but couldn’t solve the Red Deer penalty kill.

“It was a great effort on our part and that (penalty killing) was a very strong area of our game all night,” said Wallin. “That gave us some momentum. The guys had some life after that going into the third and then of course we got the two quick goals.”

Tyson Ness, with his second of the season, pulled the Rebels even at 4:09 when he broke away after the puck slipped off the stick of a Blazers defenceman at the Red Deer blueline.

“We knew we could do a better job in the third period. It was a tough break (Barnett’s short-handed marker) that got us in the second period and we just had to bounce back from it,” said Ness.

“I was fortunate enough to get a good bounce off the defenceman’s stick. I just made sure I didn’t lose the puck or miss the net. I was tripped up a bit but I still found a away to put it in.”

The winner was, in soccer terms, an own goal. Chad Robinson was credited with the decisive tally when he threw the puck in front and watched Tim Bozon accidentally whack it into his own net a mere 24 seconds after Ness had made it 2-2.

From there, the Rebels used their survival instincts to pick up the two points and improve to 6-3-0-0.

“It was a character win, a huge win,” said Wallin, whose squad got a game-saving stop from Bartosak with two minutes remaining.

The Czech goaltender, who finished with 30 saves, got his pad on an in-close shot from Austin Madaisky to preserve the lead.

“Patty was solid. He made some real good saves,” said Wallin. “We gave them a little bit too much respect in our own end of the rink. They have some real skilled guys up front, some quickness with guys like Schaber, Ranford and (Colin) Smith.

“They have some real skilled guys on those top two lines and we didn’t do a good enough job sometimes of taking away their time and space. We allowed them to wheel in the corners and get their cycle going. They hit their forward in the slot a number of times when they kind of caught us sleeping. We were too casual that way upon occasion but Patty was their when we needed him to be. He’s been real solid for us.”

gmeachem@bprda.wpengine.com

– copyright Red Deer Advocate