Rebels 4 Chiefs 2
SPOKANE, Wash. — This time, the Red Deer Rebels cashed in.
After shooting too many blanks in 1-0 and 4-1 home and away losses to the Kamloops Blazers and Kootenay Ice, the Rebels regained their scoring touch Saturday in a 4-2 Western Hockey League win over the host Spokane Chiefs.
“We’ve consistently given up one or just a few goals a game and when you’re doing that you should be able to win games, but we haven’t been scoring enough,” said Rebels head coach/vice president of hockey operations Jesse Wallin.
“We capitalized on some opportunities in this game and that was the difference.”
The visitors jumped out to the all-important lead when John Persson converted a feed from Andrej Kudrna seven minutes into the game.
“It was a play where we really dug down to get the puck and got it to the net. Kudrna made a great play taking it to the net and Persson buried it,” said Wallin.
Persson hammered a shot off the cross-bar on the next shift, but the potential 2-0 lead turned in a 1-1 score when Anthony Bardaro tallied for the Chiefs with five minutes remaining in the period.
From there, Red Deer defenceman Justin Weller notched a go-ahead goal at 3:21 of the second period and Byron Froese upped the count to 3-1 with a power-play tally at 18:55. Turner Elson made it 4-1 at 15:36 of the final frame and Levko Koper potted a power-play marker for the Chiefs just over two minutes later.
“The guys we needed to score really bore down for us and capitalized on their chances,” said Wallin.
“The second goal was a big one and the third goal on the power play was huge.
“It was a just a huge effort going into their building. They (Chiefs) hadn’t played the night before so they were a fresh hockey team and were kind of waiting for us and licking their chops.
“The U.S. buildings are tough places to play. Spokane has a loud building and when their fans get into the game it can be an intimidating place to play and I thought our guys handled that really well.”
With Alex Petrovic out with a knee injury, the Rebels blueline corps worked overtime Saturday and during Friday’s 4-1 loss to Kootenay at Cranbrook.
“Guys like (Colin) Archer and Weller played a lot of minutes both nights and really dug in,” said Wallin.
“Brad Deagle also stepped up and played real well . . . we didn’t miss a beat with him in the lineup. He took advantage of his opportunity to play, and (rookie Mathew) Dumba also played a lot of strong minutes.
“We rode those guys hard and needed them to play well, and (goaltender Darcy Kuemper) was solid for us as well, which is huge in a game like that. And of course our forwards scored some big goals for us, which you need to win games.”
Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur was naturally not as impressed with his charges.
“We had a chance to go to .500 but didn’t put our best foot forward,” Nachbaur told Dave Trimmer of the Spokane Spokesman-Review after his team fell to 4-6-0-0. “It’s easy to play 8-1 games, it’s tougher to put in a good game in a tight game.
“I think you have to give them (Rebels) credit. They’re a good hockey team. Some guys got caught standing still against a good skating team with speed. They got too many easy goals. I think some guys were fishing for the puck, rather than finishing (with a hit on) the body.”
Kuemper finished with 31 saves. James Reid made 21 for Spokane.
The Rebels are idle until the weekend when they host the Vancouver Giants and Saskatoon Blades Friday and Saturday.
Petrovic and fellow defenceman Matt Pufahl, who has been out since suffering a concussion Oct. 15 versus the visiting Blades, may be ready to play this weekend.