Rebels 3 Hurricanes 4
The Red Deer Rebels will be falling through the back door into the WHL Playoffs.
After losing 4-3 to the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Friday at the Centrium, there was plenty of scoreboard watching at the rink and in the Rebels dressing room. Cheers came when the score was finalized in Regina.
With a 5-4 loss by the Brandon Wheat Kings Friday against the Regina Pats, the Rebels clinched the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot.
“You get help. But I wish we could have helped ourselves. We’ll take it,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter after learning the news out of Regina.
“You don’t like having to go in the backdoor. I’m still reeling about losing. We’ll take the help we got. It puts us in the playoffs. I wish we could have helped ourselves by winning our games.”
Red Deer was close to carving their own path into the playoffs although they tried all night to do it the hard way.
Hurricanes forward Dylan Cozens ripped a laser high over Ethan Anders shoulder just six minutes into the game. It was the 34th goal of the season for the 2019 NHL Draft eligible forward.
A Dawson Barteaux hooking minor eight seconds after the goal created a real hole for the home side. Only 22 seconds into the 4-on-3 advantage, Jake Leschyshyn buried his 38th goal of the year on a big rebound in the slot.
Reese Johnson, in his final regular season home game at the Centrium, willed his group back into the contest.
He buried high glove on Carl Tetachuk off the rush in the first then cashed a rebound five minutes into the second on the power play to tie the game at two.
“You better battle back. It’s game 67 of the season and you’re at home. You look at how we drew the penalty off the faceoff at centre ice. Stuff like that shouldn’t happen,” Sutter said.
“It did and we responded the right way.”
After Leschyshyn made it 3-2, Johnson scored 43 seconds later, a goal he won’t soon forget. He slipped a rebound past Tetachuk for his third hat trick of the season and 27th goal of the campaign.
“It was good, my linemates, I credit them a lot to that too, they’re fun to play with,” said Johnson, who earned the Humanitarian Award and the Players Award during a pre-game presentation of year-end awards.
Red Deer looked good in the second and had plenty of chances to go ahead going into the final frame. Leschyshyn made all that effort for not with his third of the night, depositing a loose puck past Anders.
“We were even up going into the third and you have to find a way to win the game. Not a way to lose. Again, a mistake cost us the game,” Sutter said.
The three stars were Johnson (1), Leschyshyn (2) and Calen Addison (3).
Red Deer also handed out their end of season awards before puck drop Friday. Hagel earned the Rebels MVP Award, the Three Stars Award and leading scorer honours. Alex Alexeyev was the top defenceman, and Oleg Zaytsev was Rookie of the Year. Zak Smith won the most Underrated Player Award.
The Rebels final regular season game is Sunday against the Kootenay ICE in Cranbrook.