Rebels 5 Hurricanes 2
A dynamite power play and several timely penalty kills powered the Red Deer Rebels to a win on the road over the Lethbridge Hurricanes Friday in WHL action.
Red Deer was three for six on the advantage and killed off all four Lethbridge power plays, including two crucial kills with a two-goal lead in the third at the Enmax Centre.
The biggest kill of the game wasn’t recorded on the scoresheet, with the Hurricanes’ goalie out in the final three minutes of the game.
The Rebels were hemmed in their own zone down a man for about 90 seconds and a number of blocked shots and big saves from Connor Ungar helped seal the 5-2 victory. With 1:44 left as the puck squeaked out of the Rebels’ end, Dallon Melin gathered the puck up and slid it into the empty net.
“That’s the mentality our team needs– any team needs down the stretch when you need to defend a lead. Got hemmed in there a bit but were in shot lanes and blocking shots and protecting the dangerous area until you get the bounce,” Rebels head coach Steve Konowalchuk said.
“It was a long shift and they really couldn’t get on their stick even to ice it. It was long but they protected the middle and did a good job.”
Ben King was on a tear to open the game, scoring twice in the opening 13 minutes. He burst through a pair of Hurricanes’ defenders and slide a shot past Jared Picklyk to open the scoring. His 26th goal of the campaign came at 12:45 of the frame, a laser on the power play after a great feed from Kalan Lind. The power-play tally was his league-leading 14th of the year.
“He was skating and confident with the puck. That line played well again, they’re a good line with good chemistry and skill. They’re working hard and had a good game for us,” Konowalchuk said.
“He has that finish when he needs it. It was good to see.”
With the Rebels in cruise control early in the second, 20-year-old Liam Keeler buried his 14th goal of the year to make it 3-0.
Alex Thacker woke the visitors up midway through the frame, walking out in front of the Rebels’ net and ripping a backhand over the glove of Connor Ungar.
Tristan Zandee got the home side within one and the game could have been easily tied after that had it not been for a five-alarm save from Ungar on Ty Nash. He also robbed Nash point-blank in the first.
For his part, Ungar was stellar in the victory and a major reason Red Deer picked up two points. He made 25 saves, including eight in the third and was second star for his efforts.
“Very competitive, worked his butt off. A couple of huge timely saves. When it was 3-2, we gave up a real good chance and it was a huge save and then we get the fourth goal, that’s the difference,” Konowalchuk said.
Defenceman Jackson van de Leest restored the two-goal lead for Red Deer on another power play with 3:15 left in the second. It was his first goal in a Rebels’ uniform and second point, after an assist earlier in the game.
Melin’s goal was the only tally of the third period.
With the three power-play goals, the Rebels are up to 25.5 per cent on the season overall on the man advantage, good for third in the WHL. Konowalchuk said good puck movement and taking advantage of an aggressive Hurricanes’ kill helped them Friday.
“Good support, they have a pretty aggressive penalty kill over there, but good support to help each other get out of trouble. Shot selection was good and we had traffic on both goals,” he said.
The Rebels are back at home Saturday night when they welcome to Moose Jaw Warriors to the Peavey Mart Centrium, with puck drop set for 7 p.m.