Rebels 5 Wheat Kings 2
The Brandon Wheat Kings carried much of the play and held an advantage in shots through the opening period of Saturday’s Western Hockey League game at the Centrium.
Unfortunately for the visitors, they had nothing to show for their efforts but a 3-0 deficit after 20 minutes, a shortfall that proved costly as the Red Deer Rebels skated to a 5-2 win before 4,667 patrons.
The Wheat Kings outshot their hosts 11-6 in the first frame, but Rebels netminder Darcy Kuemper closed the door and Brett Ferguson, John Persson and Mathew Dumba beat Wheaties stopper Liam Liston to give Red Deer a comfortable lead.
“We got better as the game went on. After the first period we controlled the play a lot and that’s what we want to do, especially on home ice,” said Ferguson.
The Rebels improved to 10-3-0-0 on home ice while moving two points clear of the second-place Kootenay Ice in the Central Division.
“That’s what we say every day — we want to make this the toughest building to come in and play,” said Ferguson. “I think we started that a bit last year, we were pretty tough to beat on home ice. Our mentality in every single game is that those two points are ours and the other team has to crawl out of this building.”
Brandon GM/head coach Kelly McCrimmon lifted Liston after Andrej Kudrna upped Red Deer’s lead to 4-0 a mere 1:38 into the middle frame. Corbin Boes came on in relief of Liston — who stopped four of the eight shots he faced — and blocked 16 of 17 drives the rest of the way.
Brayden Schenn, in his first game back since being reassigned by the Los Angeles Kings Friday, got the Wheat Kings on the board at 3:40 of the second period when his power-play shot beat a screened Darcy Kuemper in the Rebels net.
From there, John Persson ripped a rising 30-footer past Boes at 8:40 of the final frame with Schenn off for cross checking, and Scott Glennie closed out the scoring with one second remaining, beating Kuemper with the Wheaties enjoying a two-man advantage.
McCrimmon bemoaned the fact that his charges found themselves down three goals early despite playing well.
“I thought we had a very good first period,” he told the Brandon Sun. “We had real good pace to our game and territorially, we had a lot of time in the Red Deer end. We outshot them 11-6 and we trailed 3-0, so it’s discouraging for our team to be in that position after one period.
“I give our guys credit. I didn’t think they gave up on the night and continued to play real hard in the second and third period.”
The forward unit of Ferguson, Turner Elson and Byron Froese accounted for just a single Red Deer goal, but all three players finished the night at plus-2.
“Last night (in a 3-0 win over the visiting Prince Albert Raiders) we weren’t going very good and we said before the game tonight that we want to get back,” said Ferguson. “The three of us are at our best when we’re playing greasy and playing gritty, when we’re crashing and banging in the corners. I can’t say enough about Byron as a player and Turner is quickly making a name for himself in this league. They’re just a lot of fun to play with.”
Ferguson was also busy blocking shots with a teammate in the penalty box.
“It’s something I have to do to stay on the penalty kill,” he said. “I love playing on the penalty kill and I have to get in the shooting lanes. The thing that makes you want to keep doing it is when all the boys on the bench are hooting and hollering after you’ve blocked one. It’s just a good feeling when everyone is congratulating you for blocking a shot.”
Kuemper finished with 25 saves while posting his league-leading 20th win of the season.
“We’re just trying to establish winning games consistently, one night at a time regardless of whether it’s here or on the road,” said Rebels head coach/vice-president of hockey operations Jesse Wallin, while speaking of his team’s impressive home-ice record.
“Of course we want to take pride in playing in our own building and our mentality is that every point in this building has to be ours. But our focus is really just one game at a time . . . to approach each game as a must-win game. We have a nice home stretch here (six more games at the Centrium and two on the road through the remainder of the month) and we have to continue to capitalize on that.”