Rebels 1 Hurricanes 0
Red Deer Rebels veteran netminder Darcy Kuemper had to laugh when asked about recording his first shutout of the Western Hockey League season, eight days after teammate Kraymer Barnstable turned the trick for the first time this season.
“I knew I had to have a great effort, otherwise he’d start stealing some of my starts,” Kuemper joked. “But really it was great to see him get that shutout and it’s great for the team when both of us are going like this.”
Kuemper finished with 25 saves in blanking the Lethbridge Hurricanes 1-0 for his fourth career shutout before an announced crowd 4,816 at the Centrium Sunday.
Barnstable recorded his first WHL career shutout, making 24 saves in blanking the Edmonton Oil Kings 2-0 Dec. 19.
Kuemper had very little to do in a game that lacked much of an offensive flow until Jordie Deagle opened the scoring at 9:51 of the third period.
“I was trying not to fall asleep over the first two periods,” said Kuemper. “It was a matter of staying focused and not giving anything away. In the third period was different.”
In fact Kuemper made 15 saves in the final frame, the majority following the Rebels goal.
“We opened up the gates a little after the goal and didn’t do some of the little things we needed to do,” said Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin.
“We gave up some out-numbered rushes and several good scoring opportunities, but Kemps stood tall for us.”
While the majority of the team looked a bit rusty following the week layoff, Kuemper didn’t, which didn’t surprise Wallin.
“We expect him to be ready,” he said. “He’s a 19-year-old veteran with a lot of experience over the last couple of years and he’s been playing well of late. Goaltending is a big part of our team and both goalies have been playing well, which gives us a lot of confidence.”
The Hurricanes had several chances in the third period to even the count and at one point it looked as if they had, when the puck ended up in the net. However, after a video review it was rule the net was off prior to the puck going in.
“It’s tough to lose a 1-0 game and we thought we had one there, but that’s the way it goes,” said Hurricanes head coach Rich Preston. “We gave a good push at the end and I was proud of our guys.”
The Rebels had a slim edge in scoring chances over the first two periods, in fact Andrej Kudrna twice hit the cross bar with Lethbridge netminder Brandon Anderson beat.
But overall the Hurricanes, who are last in the Central Division with a 10-21-3-1 record, did what they had to do to keep the game within reach.
“It was tough to generate much tonight as they did a good job in the neutral zone and their D closed down the gaps,” said Wallin. “They made it tough to get anything off the rush as they collapsed in their zone, so we had to grind it out.”
The fact the Rebels were off for over a week didn’t help either.
“It was one of those games you get after Christmas,” added Wallin. “It was a bit ugly and we knew it would be that kind of game and we were prepared for it.
“And in the end it’s two points and at this time of year every win is huge.”
The Rebels are still missing four players, including three of their offensive leaders in Landon Ferraro and Nathan Green, who are on the injured list, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who is with Team Pacific at the World U17 championships in Ontario. As well rearguard Nick Bell is still out.
“We’re missing some key guys, but everyone is working hard and everyone is buying into our system,” said Kuemper. “That’s one of the reasons why we’re playing so well in December and getting wins.”
• The win gave the Rebels a 19-15-0-2 record and moved them into a seventh-place tie with Swift Current in the Eastern Conference and they have two games in hand . . . Ferraro is back skating and may play Tuesday in Kootenay or Wednesday at home against Brandon.