Rebels 7 Blades 1
Big and tough — albeit not as nasty as last season’s version — and often ready to rumble, the Saskatoon Blades paid for their sins Saturday at the Centrium.
The Blades were assessed nine of 11 minor penalties during the second and third periods and the Rebels cashed in with a trio of power-play goals en route to a 7-1 Western Hockey League whipping of the visitors before 4,897 customers.
‘They are a big, physical team and they like to play a certain style,” said Rebels head coach/VP of hockey operations Jesse Wallin, who got a three-goal effort from Andrej Kudrna and a 25-save performance from Darcy Kuemper.
“The message we wanted to send was that can get them in trouble.
“They came at us hard in the third period but I thought we were able to frustrate them. Our power play took advantage of some opportunities and that’s something we have to continue to do. If teams want to play that way (undisciplined) we’re going to be able to take advantage of it — that’s the message we wanted to send.
“Our power play looked real good tonight and was certainly a difference in the game for us.”
Following a scoreless opening period, John Persson gave the Rebels a 1-0 lead when he worked out of the corner and slid the puck past Blades netminder Adam Morrison 17 seconds into the middle frame.
Josh Nicholls replied for the Blades six minutes later, but Red Deer took control when Byron Froese and Kudrna scored power-play goals 35 seconds apart in the final minute of the period.
“We knew it was going to take a great effort, especially coming off (Friday’s 5-2 win over the visiting Vancouver Giants). They (Blades) were coming in here fresh so we really tried to focus on having a good start,” said Wallin. “It was a hard-fought game through the first two periods . . . real tight.
The first period was a well-played period by both teams, there weren’t a lot of opportunities either way.
“It was tight-checking and there wasn’t a lot of space on the ice. Through the second period it was much the same and obviously getting the late power plays and the two quick goals set us up for the third period. That was probably the turning point in the game — being able to break it open there.”
The Rebels went on to bury the Blades with four unanswered third-period goals. Kudrna tallied twice to complete his hat-trick performance, while Brett Ferguson tallied his third of the season — chasing Morrison in the process — and Daulton Siwak notched his second of the campaign. The final three goals were scored against Blades rookie stopper Adam Todd, who combined with Morrison to make 33 saves.
Ferguson went into the weekend with just a single goal, then scored in back-to-back wins.
“I was feeling kind of almost useless for awhile. It feels so good to be on the scoresheet, especially when the team is winning,” said the overage forward.
Ferguson took great delight in beating the Blades, who swept the Rebels in a first-round playoff series last spring and stole a 2-1 win Oct. 15 at the Centrium.
“We had two really tough teams come in here this weekend and this one obviously feels better than last night because we have some bad blood with Saskatoon,” he said. “It feels good to beat those guys like that.”
As for the Rebels’ refusal to join the Blades’ march to the penalty box . . .
“That’s not our game,” said Ferguson. “We’re just trying to play the game hard between the whistles. That’s what we did tonight and obviously it was successful for us. They’ve kind of got some, like uh, donkeys over there and we don’t want to get into it with them.”
Saturday’s performance far surpassed the Rebels’ overall effort in the narrow Oct. 15 loss to the Blades, in which Red Deer held a 41-23 advantage in shots but didn’t get 100 per cent from its star players.
“No question, that was a disappointing game,” said Wallin. “I thought we played well that night with certainly enough opportunities to score goals, but the difference in that game was that our best players weren’t very good.
“That was a challenge for them before the game tonight. We needed those guys to step up and they did. Our best guys were our best guys and we got a solid effort out of everybody. If these guys play that way every night the result will take care of itself more often than not. We just need that consistent effort. We feel we have some skill in our room and these guys just need to figure out how to be a good hockey team, which is part of the process. Hopefully they take the right lesson from this weekend and we keep pushing forward.”
With convincing wins over the first-place teams in the B.C. and Eastern divisions, the Rebels gave themselves a boost of confidence heading into a six-game road trip which starts Tuesday at Seattle and concludes 10 days later in Chilliwack.
“We don’t see those teams often so we’ll just go there and try and beat them in the one game we do play them and come home with as many points as we can,” said Ferguson.
“I thought this weekend was a great challenge for our guys and I hope they proved to themselves that they can not just play with these top teams, but that they can be an elite team themselves when they play this way,” said Wallin. “It was a challenge they embraced and I hope our team is able to grow through the experience of the weekend.”