Red Deer Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter challenged his group Friday and they responded in a big way.
He leaned on the leadership to be better after the loss to Prince Albert and captain Grayson Pawlenchuk answered with a two-goal effort in a 5-3 win over the Swift Current Broncos.
Red Deer scored four unanswered goals in the final 11 minutes of the game to pull out the victory and Sutter said overall the game was way ahead of their other two games this week.
“Certainly an exciting win, to come back and score four goals like that. More so, I liked our overall game. It was much better in a lot of areas and we played more tonight like we saw on the road trip,” Sutter said.
“When we play the right way, we find a way to get points and find ways to win hockey games. Tonight I thought we deserved it. In the last 12 minutes, we kept pushing and kept the heat on. Obviously, they are a very good hockey team. If we play the right way, we can play with anybody.”
Trailing 3-1 with 10:55 to play, Pawlenchuk separated his man from the puck down low, then slipped in behind the Broncos defence and slid a shot five-hole on Broncos goalie Joel Hofer.
With under five minutes left in the third, the 20-year-old tucked a wraparound past Hofer to tie the game at three. The Rebels captain picked up a loose puck down low and drove around the net and put a shot in before Hofer could get across the crease.
“You have to have your best players be your best players and I thought, Pawly tonight, he’s been fighting it a little bit. Maybe a lack of confidence because the puck hasn’t gone in. Both those goals he scored were power moves,” Sutter said.
“I was proud of Pawly tonight, that’s the leadership he’s capable of giving us. When he plays like that, he’s tough to contend with.”
The first goal of the night for Pawlenchuk marked the end of a 15-game goalless drought. He said that wasn’t on his mind too much, as long as the team was winning.
“Yeah it was definitely nice, lately haven’t had the best of luck but put that aside for the team success so it’s still been good. Definitely nice to have some personal success,” Pawlenchuk said.
Chris Douglas poked home the game-winning goal only 63 seconds after Pawlenchuk tied the game and Kristian Reichel fired a 195-foot shot into the Broncos empty net to seal the victory.
With the win, the Rebels stayed ahead of the Kootenay Ice for third in the Central Division.
“Big win for us, in the standings too. Especially the past two games and not getting the points that we needed. Huge points this time of year,” Pawlenchuk said.
Riley Lamb had 28 saves in the game and another standout night for the Rebels with his eighth straight win. He made two five-alarm stops on Broncos’ captain Glen Gawdin in the third.
Brandon Hagel opened the scoring early in the second after a gorgeous feed from defenceman Alex Alexeyev. The Buffalo Sabres draft pick burst past a pair of Broncos’ defenders and fired a wrist shot glove side past Joel Hofer.
Just over a minute later, Broncos’ forward Tyler Steenbergen hit Giorgio Estephan with a great pass in the slot and the 20-year-old blasted a one-timer by Lamb.
After the media timeout with just under five minutes to play in the second, Matteo Gennaro scored his 37th goal of the year when he backhanded it past Lamb.
Broncos captain Glen Gawdin scored his 52nd goal of the year on a wraparound to put Swift Current up 3-1 in the third.
The Rebels will welcome the Calgary Hitmen to the Centrium on Feb. 28.