Tyler Brown nearly stole the show again.
For the second time in a five-night stretch, the Regina Pats netminder was a thorn in the side of the Red Deer Rebels. But unlike Tuesday, when Brown made 35 saves in a 3-2 Pats win, the Rebels prevailed 2-1 Saturday at the Centrium despite another heroic performance from the Regina second-year stopper.
Brown turned aside 37 shots, including 16 in a dominant opening period for the Rebels, who went into the first intermission with a 1-0 lead thanks to a late short-handed breakaway goal from Jeff de Wit.
“I was hooked by one of their guys at the start,” said de Wit, who created a turnover at the Red Deer blueline, “then I kind of broke free from him. Right when I was on top of the goalie the same player kind of lifted my stick and then I got a second chance at it and put it upstairs.
“He (Brown) did a good job, for sure. I thought we owed theses guys one and our whole team came out with a collective effort tonight. We just kept firing pucks at the net.”
The Rebels, in front of 6,081 fans, were the beneficiaries of a multitude of Pats penalties, but finished a mere one-for-nine on the power play despite an overwhelming advantage in zone time. Again, Brown was the visitors’ best penalty killer.
“We generated a lot of opportunities, we just didn’t capitalize on most of them,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “But I thought we played a real good 60 minutes tonight, a really sound game. I thought our work ethic was outstanding and our forecheck was very good.”
The Rebels’ power play — zero-for-three in the opening frame — finally connected early in the second period, with Conner Bleackley credited with the eventual winning goal. Brown made an excellent toe save on a Bleackley snap shot, but Pats defenceman Sergey Zborovsky knocked the rebound into his own net.
“There was a lot of penalties called (against Regina) but we created those penalties by moving our feet,” said Sutter. “I was proud of the way we played, right from our goalie on out.
“Tonight we had plenty of opportunities but their goalie stood tall. He made some unbelievable saves, especially early in the game. He was the difference in the score being what it was after the first period.”
While nowhere as busy as Brown, Rebels goalie Rylan Toth nevertheless turned in a solid performance and among his 19 saves were several of the difficult variety. Toth lost his shutout bid when Lane Zablocki cashed a rebound at 13:56 of the third period with Rebels captain Wyatt Johnson serving the second half of a double high sticking infraction.
“He (Toth) made the saves when we needed them. Again, that’s what you want from your goaltender,” said Sutter. “When you play the game the right way you don’t give up a lot of shots and you need a goalie who’s very strong mentally, keeps his focus and stays in the game. Tother did a good job of that.
“He was probably a little upset after last night (in a 6-4 win at Medicine Hat) when he gave up a couple of goals he probably wishes he could have had back. We wanted to go right back with him tonight and he responded really well.”
The Rebels had all four lines going forward Saturday, a welcome sight for Sutter.
“That’s the way we want to play, we want to be a four-line team for the most part,” he noted. “We want to be a hard-forechecking team. When we play that way, when we’re on our toes, we have success.”
Regina GM/head coach John Paddock credited Brown for keeping the game within reach for his squad. The Pats, like the Rebels, were playing their fourth game in five nights.
“He was very, very good — gave us a chance to win,” Paddock told Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post.
“When you take that many penalties and give up one that you put in your own net, the goalie had to be pretty good. He was excellent.
“We didn’t match their intensity,” continued Paddock. “They seemed like they were a step ahead of us all night.”
The Rebels are idle until Saturday when they travel to Lethbridge to face the upstart Hurricanes. Red Deer hosts the Prince Albert Raiders the following day, with the puck dropping at 5 p.m.