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Rebels eliminate Tigers to advance to second round

They’ll face the Saskatoon Blades

Rebels 5

Tigers 2

The Red Deer Rebels are off to the second round of the WHL playoffs.

Despite being outshot 38-18, the Rebels dominated on the scoresheet to beat the Medicine Hat Tigers 5-2 in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

With the win, the Rebels advance to the second round after taking the series four games to one on Friday night at Co-op Place in Medicine Hat.

In front of the Tigers’ biggest home crowd in franchise history, Rebels goaltender Chase Wutzke was the catalyst. He had one of his best games of the season making 36 saves on 38 shots in front of 5,263 fans in enemy territory.

Head coach Dave Struch it’s a great feeling especially since they came out off the bat and played the right way.

“The guys gave us a good opportunity to get a lead. In the second period, we didn’t like our game as much but Chase Wutzke played fantastic,” Struch said.

“He gave us a good chance to come out in the third and get a couple of goals. Medicine Hat wasn’t going to quit, they’ve got a good team and they had a really good push… The end product was a good result.”

The Rebels got off to a quick start in the first period. Three minutes in forward Carson Latimer notched his fourth goal of the series. The 20-year-old forward skated down the right side and released a rocket of a shot that went top corner.

Midway through the period, following a strong penalty kill by the Rebels, forward Dwayne Jean Jr. snapped home a shot from the left circle off the pass from Matthew Gard.

Despite outshooting the Rebels 18-5 in the second period, the Tigers couldn’t buy a goal in the middle frame. They were even rewarded a 5-on-3 powerplay but couldn’t find the back of the net.

However, the Rebels were on top of their game, especially defensively.

Late in the period, the Tigers appeared to get a shot through but defenceman Matteo Fabrizi was there to stop the puck on the goal line.

With 4:12 left in the second period, the Rebels delivered the kill shot. After forcing a turnover in the Tigers’ end, Rebels captain Kai Uchacz fired a shot on net and Frantisek Formanek knocked in the rebound to lead 3-0 after 40 minutes.

In the third period, the Rebels made the Tigers pay on the powerplay. Uchacz recorded his second point of the night in front of the net when he whacked at the puck not once but twice to get it past the goaltender.

Just 29 seconds later, Rebels Talon Brigley fired in his first goal of the playoffs on the offensive rush.

Halfway through the final frame, the Tigers broke the shutout when Andrew Basha beat Wutzke with just over nine minutes to go.

They added another one nearly five minutes later scored by Nate Corbet to wrap up the game.

The Rebels will now face the Saskatoon Blades in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the same team that ended Red Deer’s playoff run last year. The Blades completed the reverse sweep to eliminate the Rebels in seven games in the semi-finals.

This year the Blades defeated the Prince Albert Raiders in five games in the opening round and have been dominant all season long. In the regular season, they finished as the top team in the Western Hockey League.

Games 1 and 2 will be in Saskatoon on Friday, April 12 and Sunday, April 14 followed by Games 3 and 4 in Red Deer on Tuesday, April 16 and Wednesday, April 17.

If needed, Game 5 will return to Saskatoon on Friday, April 19 and Game 6 in Red Deer on Sunday, April 21. If the series goes the distance, Game 7 is set to be played in Saskatoon on Tuesday, April 23.

Ian Gustafson

About the Author: Ian Gustafson

Ian began his journalism career as a reporter in Prince Albert, Sask. for the last three years, and was born and raised in Saskatchewan.
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