It appeared the Christmas break did the Red Deer Rebels some good.
On Tuesday night the Rebels stomped the Edmonton Oil Kings 7-1 at home in their first game back in 10 days.
It’s amazing what some time away with family and friends can do for a team and the Rebels showed it in front of their fans at the Peavey Mart Centrium.
They looked rejuvenated, quick, and just as dominant as they did in the first half of the season where they won 22 games.
Speaking of dominance, Rebels forward Kai Uchacz scored his first hat trick of the year to make it 26 goals this campaign. He’s now just one behind the Western Hockey League leading scorer Connor Bedard (27).
“We wanted to get a good start to the second half so everyone came ready to play. I don’t think we had one passenger out there tonight so it was a full team win,” Uchacz said.
“I’m just going to keep shooting and see where I go with it but it’s been really good and hopefully I can just keep it going.”
The Rebels had a near-perfect night on special teams going four for six on the powerplay and stopping the Oil Kings from scoring on five man-advantage opportunities.
Head coach Steve Konowalchuk said his team competed hard right from the opening whistle.
“To get some momentum maybe it took a bit but you could sense we were ready to start,” he said.
“[Our] minds were into it but when you’re ready to compete it’s easy to think.”
The first period was owned by the Rebels who scored three unanswered goals in the opening frame.
The first came at the midway point off the stick of Rebels forward Ollie Josephson who redirected an Arjun Bawa shot past the goaltender.
A couple of minutes after that defenceman Matteo Fabrizi scored off a shot from the blue line on the powerplay to extend Red Deer’s lead to 2-0.
They didn’t stop there as forward Craig Armstrong knocked in his fifth goal of the season into the open net on a two-on-one opportunity off a nice pass from Jace Isley.
The Rebels continued to pile it on in the second period. Forward Kai Uchacz made it 4-0 for central Alberta’s team on the powerplay off a bomb from the top of the circle. Defenceman Christoffer Sedoff had the assist on the play.
The Oil Kings answered at the 15:30 mark of the period to get on the board but the Rebels did not take long to get their next tally.
A minute and a half later Uchacz notched his second of the game seconds into their fourth powerplay opportunity. The 19-year-old buried the rebound opportunity after Jayden Grubbe fired a shot on net.
Despite being outshot in the first two periods the Rebels had a comfortable 5-1 lead heading into the final frame against their Central Division rivals.
In the third period, the Oil Kings pressured the Rebels early while Edmonton was on the powerplay where Red Deer goaltender Rhett Stoesser made a sprawling save to maintain their four-goal lead. The rookie had a fantastic game with 34 saves, much to the delight of his head coach.
“When it was 2-0 Stoesser makes a huge save for us. Then we go down to score to make it 3-0. A 2-1 hockey game it could be a different game when you battle a little bit more… I think his compete level is good and it’s contagious for our guys too when they battle in front of him,” Konowalchuk said.
However, the Rebels continued to pour it on in the final frame. Forward Carson Birnie knocked in his sixth goal of the campaign on the doorstep to make it 6-1.
Uchacz completed the hat trick with five minutes left in the game on the powerplay off a one-timer chance assisted by Talon Brigley.
With the win, the Rebels move into second place in the Eastern Conference behind the Winnipeg Ice and lead the Central Division with a record of 23-6-1-3.
“Everybody off the break looks like they put some time into the break taking care of themselves,” Konowalchuk said. “They skated well and bottom line they competed really hard for each other.”