Rebels battle past Warriors

The date read Jan. 23, but it might as well have been March 23.

Moose Jaw Warrior Danny Gayle

Moose Jaw Warrior Danny Gayle

Rebels 3 Warriors 1

The date read Jan. 23, but it might as well have been March 23.

“I think we all treated it like a playoff game. We came ready to work tonight and we did that,” said Red Deer forward Josh Cowen, following the Rebels’ 3-1 Western Hockey League win over the Moose Jaw Warriors Saturday before a recorded crowd of 4,811 at the Centrium.

“The second half of the first period was kind of shaky, but we got it together in the second and third periods and came out with a huge win.”

The Rebels dominated early but couldn’t beat Warriors netminder Jeff Bosch, who stopped everything he saw and a few shots he didn’t, and made a big save on Andrej Kudrna who broke in alone after creating a turnover at the Moose Jaw blueline.

Instead, it was the visitors who struck first, with Warriors captain Jason Bast taking a stretch pass from Spencer Edwards, darting in behind the Rebels defence and beating Rebels goaltender Darcy Kuemper late in the period.

Red Deer battled back in the middle frame and pulled even when John Persson, from the low slot, picked the lower left corner. From there, Landon Ferraro notched his ninth and 10th goals of the season in the third period to nail down the victory, which kept the Rebels in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, a singe point behind Prince Albert and Moose Jaw.

“Everyone came to play,” said Cowen, who picked up an assist on Ferraro’s first goal, was strong on the penalty kill and was selected as the third star of the game, behind first star Ferraro and Bosch, who stopped 33 shots. “We had a really good atmosphere in the dressing room today. Everyone expected to have a good game and we all held each other accountable.”

Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin was nothing short of impressed.

“I thought outside of the last six to seven minutes of the first period when we got a bit casual, a bit sloppy . . . it was a pretty good hockey game,” said Wallin. “I know the guys were excited to be back, we hadn’t played since last Sunday (5-1 loss at Chilliwack) and hadn’t played a home game in a couple of weeks. The guys were looking forward to getting back on the ice.”

The Rebels coaching staff gave the players two days off earlier in the week, which proved to be a timely decision.

“The rest allowed us to get our legs back after a tough road trip,” said Wallin. “That paid off for us tonight. We looked pretty fresh for the most part. It was a good team effort. We talked about that before the game — that we needed everybody on board, everybody doing things right. We needed everybody working together and supporting one another. I thought we had that tonight. It was a playoff-type game, a playoff-type atmosphere.”

Ferraro connected from close range at 7:46 of the final frame and the outcome hung in the balance until he converted Willie Coetzee’s fine cross-ice feed with 72 seconds remaining.

“I know we keep saying it, but every two points is huge. It was a big win tonight,” said Wallin.

The Rebels’ penalty kill was perfect as the visitors were zero-for-five with a man advantage and had three consecutive power plays — including two back-to-back — in the third period.

“The guys did a real good job of reading the situation and paying good attention to detail,” said Wallin, praising his penalty killers. “Moose Jaw’s power play is one of the best in the league and shutting that part of their game down was a big key for us. We did a really good job in that area.”

The Rebels are idle until Wednesday when the Western Conference-leading Tri-City Americans visit the Centrium for a 7 p.m. start.