Rebels rebound against Cougars

The Red Deer Rebels not only bounced back from a one-sided loss 48 hours earlier, their penalty killers got a supreme workout Friday.

Red Deer Rebel Daulton Siwak scores on Prince George Cougar Kyle Jahraus as the Rebels rolled to a  3-1 win Friday at the Centrium.

Red Deer Rebel Daulton Siwak scores on Prince George Cougar Kyle Jahraus as the Rebels rolled to a 3-1 win Friday at the Centrium.

Rebels 3 Cougars 1

The Red Deer Rebels not only bounced back from a one-sided loss 48 hours earlier, their penalty killers got a supreme workout Friday.

The Rebels killed seven of eight infractions while skating to a 3-1 Western Hockey League win over the Prince George Cougars before a recorded audience of 5,339 at the Centrium.

“They (penalty killers) did an excellent job for us,” said Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin, who wasn’t impressed with the work of referee Steve Papp but bit his tongue. “They worked very hard and for the most part we didn’t give up too much on (the penalty kill). We certainly spent a lot of time there.”

The visitors enjoyed three two-man advantages, including one for a stretch of 1:45 and another for 63 seconds, and — trailing 3-0 at the time — finally cashed in when Alex Rogers notched his 18th goal of the season on the back end of the third five-on-three at 5:01 of the third period.

It was too little, too late for the visitors, who managed only five shots in the final frame and fell to a league-worst 11-45-1-2.

The Rebels posted their 35th win of the season and moved into a fifth-place tie with the idle Medicine Hat Tigers in the Eastern Conference, and perhaps more importantly, rebounded in a positive fashion from an 8-1 loss Wednesday at Saskatoon.

“This was a big game for us in a lot of ways. We wanted to respond the right way coming off the game the other night,” said Wallin. “We came back and addressed what we needed to yesterday and then we burned the game sheets and threw the video in the garbage and forgot all about it. We wanted to respond the right way and I thought we did that.”

Rebels defenceman Cullen Morin, arguably the best player on the ice, was in full agreement.

“We needed to respond after that game in Saskatoon. We came out and had an excellent first 20 minutes and took the play to them,” he said.

Cougars netminder Kyle Jahraus was pelted with 18 shots in the opening period but held his ground and the Cougars, who had two shots, got to the intermission unscathed.

The visitors, aided by seven Red Deer penalties, held a 17-9 advantage in shots in the middle stanza, but were outscored 3-0. Andrej Kudrna opened the scoring at 8:20 when his shot from the right circle glanced off a Cougars skate and past Jahraus, Daulton Siwak converted a nifty feed from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 76 seconds later and Brett Ferguson tallied late in the period.

“We got back on our heels and took some penalties towards the latter part of the game, but our penalty kill did a good job, we found a way to stick in there and got the two points,” said Morin.

“The points are what matters at the end of the day. Now we’re just focused on putting together a solid last 11 (regular-season) games.”

Wallin was impressed with his club’s early performance and intensity.

“And if it hadn’t been for all the penalties we took I thought we could have maintained that momentum all the way through,” he said.

Wallin also had words of praise for Morin and fellow defenceman Justin Weller, who played a sound game and delivered a handful of big hits.

“(Weller) has got to be a physical guy for us, that’s the key to his game,” said the Red Deer bench boss. “He’s not Bobby Orr back there. He has to keep it simple, and when he’s a physical presence he’s a very imposing guy, a tough guy to play against.”

As for Morin’s execution . . .

“Cullen took charge when we needed him to, he played like a 20-year-old tonight,” said Wallin. “I thought he looked really poised with the puck, he skated it out of pressure and out of trouble a few times. He played with a lot of poise, he was talking and communicating and that’s what you need out of your veteran D-men. I thought he was a rock out there tonight.”

Jahraus finished with 31 saves. Red Deer netminder Darcy Kuemper turned in a top-flight showing while stopping 23 shots.

gmeachem@bprda.wpengine.com