Rebels 3 Blazers 2
KAMLOOPS, B.C. — Bolton Pouliot won’t soon forget his first Western Hockey League win, if ever.
The Red Deer Rebels rookie netminder, making his first start since December, turned aside 37 shots Friday in a 3-2 win over the Kamloops Blazers, the team currently sitting atop the overall league standings.
“He made some timely saves, including a huge glove save in the final minute with their goaltender out,” said Rebels GM/head coach Jesse Wallin. “It was great to see him play with confidence and get a win under his belt.”
The Rebels more than held their own through the first two periods, locked in a 2-2 draw while holding a 31-23 advantage in shots.
The Blazers were all over the visitors in the final frame, firing 16 shots at Pouliot but coming up empty.
Then, with just over two minutes remaining, Charles Inglis potted his 17th of the season and Red Deer — with Pouliot’s help — held on for the win.
“That was a huge goal, no question,” said Wallin.
“It was a real good shift by his (Inglis’) line. Charles protected the puck well in the offensive zone and showed a lot of patience. Then he drove off and scored on a hard wrist shot.”
Tim Bozon gave the Blazers a 1-0 lead with a power-play marker at 11:21 of the opening frame, a goal that was answered by Rebels affiliate defenceman Kevin Pochuk three minutes later.
For Pochuk, who is projected as a Red Deer regular next season, it was his first in the WHL.
“It was a nice goal. He stepped into the shot and hit it hard,” said Wallin. “He’s one of those guys who seems to have an offensive knack.”
Alex Petrovic staked the Rebels to a 2-1 lead with a power-play tally midway through the second period, but Blazers star Brendan Ranford connected with a man-advanage goal late in the frame to set up a dramatic third, at least for the visitors.
Petrovic, named first star of the game, also picked up an assist while turning in his usual take-charge performance.
“You expect him to play that way. He’s our top defenceman and a player with a pro contract (with the Florida Panthers),” said Wallin.
“We need that from him each and every night. I think he’s as good as any defenceman in the league. He’s a big guy who can play a physical role, he has offensive ability and he’s very good defensively.”
Cole Cheveldave made 31 saves for Kamloops.
The Rebels, who take on the Rockets tonight in Kelowna and conclude their four-game road trip Sunday against the Vancouver Giants, failed to gain any ground on the Brandon Wheat Kings, who hold down the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Wheat Kings rolled over the visiting Prince Albert Raiders 6-2 Friday and remain eight points ahead of the Rebels, who have three games in hand.
“We’re not counting ourselves out of this (playoff race),” said Wallin. “We realize it’s not going to be easy, but it hasn’t been easy for two months or more. We’re looking to keep chipping away.”