PRINCE ALBERT — Every game is important for the Red Deer Rebels as they battle for a playoff berth in the WHL’s Eastern Conference.
But none more so than Tuesday’s meeting with the Prince Albert Raiders.
The Rebels went into the game in eighth place in the conference and just two points up on the Raiders.
They came out of their last regular season meeting with the Raiders four points up following a 5-0 victory.
“It was a big win coming in here as we’re fighting them for a playoff spot,” said Rebels head coach/GM Brent Sutter. “We knew they would be hungry after losing their last three games and we responded.”
After a scoreless opening period the Rebels grabbed a 3-0 lead in the middle stanza on goals by Rhyse Dieno, Cole Chorney and Aspen Sterzer.
“We got some key goals in the second period on rushes after the play was in our zone,” said Sutter. “As well our young kids did a great job of cycling the puck and scored (by Chorney) off the cycle.”
Presten Kopeck and Lucas Sutter put the game away with third-period goals, 30 seconds apart.
“We scored some timely goals, plus our goaltender played really well,” added Sutter.
Patrik Bartosak notched his fourth shutout of the season and the 10th of his career, finishing with 38 saves. He was especially shape on the penalty kill.
“We took eight minor penalties and he was our best penalty killer,” continued Sutter. “We took a few penalties we shouldn’t have, which we don’t want to continue to do, but it happens.”
The Rebels also were closer to having their roster intact with only Vukie Mpofu and Wyatt Johnson sidelined.
“Getting everyone back allows me to do some things as a coach,” said Sutter. “If someone isn’t playing as well as they should we can make changes and still get the competition we want. That was one of the reasons we made the trades for Kopeck and Sterzer.”
Both newcomers have played well and continue to contribute to the offence, both finishing with a goal and an assist.
“They give us more quickness and speed up front which is what we were looking for when we got them.”
The win moved the Rebels to within two points of the seventh-place Kootenay Ice and three behind the Regina Pats, who they visit Saturday. They have a game in hand on Kootenay and two on Regina.
“It moves us closer to the pack, which is what we want,” concluded Sutter.
The Rebels are in Saskatoon Friday.