Rebels blast Ice

The Red Deer Rebels used a war-time tactic to melt the Kootenay Ice Wednesday at the Centrium.

Red Deer Rebel Andrej Kudrna is hauled down by Kootenay Ice Joe Antilla during the Rebels’ 4-2 win at the Centrium Wednesday.

Red Deer Rebel Andrej Kudrna is hauled down by Kootenay Ice Joe Antilla during the Rebels’ 4-2 win at the Centrium Wednesday.

Rebels 4 Ice 2

The Red Deer Rebels used a war-time tactic to melt the Kootenay Ice Wednesday at the Centrium.

It was the Rebels’ version of the ‘quick strike’, and consisted of three goals in a span of three minutes and change during the second period. The offensive eruption, in turn, carried the home squad to a 4-2 Western Hockey League win before a gathering of 3,861.

Third-year forward Adam Kambeitz ignited the fuse with a splendid short-handed goal at 9:11, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins rang a shot off the post and past Ice netminder Todd Mathews at 11:22 and Turner Elson connected on the power play 62 seconds later. Red Deer native and Ice overage forward Matt Fraser cut the deficit to 4-2 before the period ended, but the damage had been done.

“When you see an effort like that where a guy just gives a second, third and fourth effort, it has to inspire your bench,” said Rebels head coach/VP of hockey operations Jesse Wallin, in reference to the Kambeitz goal.

“I think that ‘Kamby’ has turned into one of the better penalty killers in the league, it’s a role he takes great pride in. It was just a tenacious play and you need those types of plays to lift your team. That’s what we want on a shift-to-shift basis out of everybody. We want to be known as an aggressive team that comes at you hard.”

Kambeitz, who fought off a pair of Ice defenders in front of the Kootenay net and converted his own rebound, admitted he lives to kill penalties.

“I’m not a guy who gets out on the power play often. I take great pride in being on the penalty kill, that’s how I contribute to the team,” he said. “I saw an opportunity, kept pounding away at the puck and eventually it went in for me.”

The win gave the Rebels a 3-0 start to the season, the first time they’ve opened at that pace since their Memorial Cup campaign of 2000-01.

“It was a big game for us. Kootenay is a major rival, we play them eight times this season and we knew we needed to establish ourselves tonight,” said Kambeitz. “It wasn’t our best effort but we’ll be better the next time we face them.”

Wallin also saw plenty of room for improvement, particularly with the Rebels’ penchant for committing neutral and defensive zone turnovers.

“I thought it was an up and down affair. I didn’t think we played the way we’re capable of for extended periods of the game,” he said. “I really liked parts of our game but at times we looked scrambly and didn’t take care of the puck. We gave up more quality opportunities than I’d like to see.

“It was a huge two points and we’re happy with the win, but I expect us to be a lot better Friday (at Medicine Hat versus the Tigers).”

The Rebels’ special teams, so effective and impressive in a pair of season-opening wins over the Edmonton Oil Kings, were special again Wednesday. Red Deer was two-for-three on the power play and five-for-five on the penalty kill.

“They’ve been hot to start off,” said Wallin of his man-advantage units led by Nugent-Hopkins, Byron Froese and Andrej Kudrna. “The five guys we put out there are all smart, skilled players. They take what’s open and they’re able to make good decisions and move the puck quickly.

“And our penalty kill was also very good again tonight. Special teams, as we all know, are huge.”

Kudrna opened the scoring with a power-play marker, capping a pretty three-way passing play — involving Froese and Nugent-Hopkins — with a shot from the low faceoff circle with just three seconds remaining in the first period.

James Martin beat a screened Rebels netminder Darcy Kuemper with a wrist-shot from the point early in the second stanza, setting the stage for Red Deer’s decisive three-goal outburst.

Kuemper earned his third win of the young season with a solid 21-save effort. Mathews stopped 31 shots for the Ice, including 17 in a scoreless third period.

gmeachem@bprda.wpengine.com