It was only a matter of time until the Red Deer Rebels had a breakout game on offence.
There was no question if it would happen, but rather when.
And it couldn’t have come at a better time as the Rebels take a 2-1 series lead over the Calgary Hitmen on Monday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome with a 4-2 victory.
With the win, the Rebels bounce back from a 2-1 overtime loss on Saturday night at the Peavey Mart Centrium.
Head coach Steve Konowalchuk commended his teams’ effort on Monday.
“It was a hard-fought game. Like we expected it was a playoff-type game and it was nice to come out on top,” he said.
The Hitmen struck first jumping out to a 1-0 lead 13:42 into the first period off the stick Carson Wetsch.
The lead, however, was short-lived when defenceman Matteo Fabrizi notched the first playoff tally of his career 16:07 into the first period.
Fellow defenceman Nicholas Andrusiak passed the pucks across the blueline to Fabrizi who fired a wrist shot and with plenty of traffic in front, the puck made its way through.
Less than a minute later, Kai Uchacz potted his second of the playoffs to give the Rebels a 2-1 lead when the 19-year-old buried a rebound off his backhand in front of the net.
The Rebels continued to build on their lead when Frantisek Formanek hammered in a one-timer just 46 seconds into the second period. Uchacz got his second point of the game when he passed Formanek the puck in front of the net to take a 3-1 lead.
However, after Ryker Singer went to the penalty box for interference the Hitmen capitalized on the man advantage notched by Carter MacAdams nearly four minutes into the middle frame.
Red Deer got into penalty trouble in the middle period with 12 minutes of time spent in the sin bin. Despite that, the Rebels’ penalty kill came up clutch holding the Hitmen to just one powerplay goal on five attempts.
Rebels goaltender Kyle Kelsey also came up with some timely saves including a highlight reel stop on Calgary forward Sean Tschigerl midway through the period.
The Hitmen would get one more powerplay attempt in the third period but could not convert on the opportunity. On the flip side, Calgary’s penalty kill this series has been on another level holding the Rebels to zero powerplay goals on 16 attempts.
However, it wouldn’t matter as Uchacz fired in the empty netter in the third period for his second of the game securing a 4-2 road win in Game 3.
“I think the penalty kill is getting the advantage on both teams. I thought our penalty kill stepped up that second-period big time there to keep it a 3-2 game,” Konowalchuk said.
“We want to be better in [not taking as many penalties]. It’s playoff hockey and you want to play really hard but you’ve also got to play to what’s being called a little bit. And I thought our guys did that better in the third.”
Kelsey was magnificent between the pipes for the Rebels again making 36 saves in his third start of the postseason. Meanwhile, on the other end of the ice, Hitmen netminder Brayden Peters posted 42 saves.
“[Kelsey] was good, solid, and made some big saves when we needed him in a tight game like that. He definitely made some good saves for us,” Konowalchuk added.
Forward Ben King made his return to the lineup on Monday since missing the last four games with an upper-body injury. The Calgary Hitmen were without star forward Riley Fiddler-Schultz and the organization has not said when he may return.
These two teams will be back in action in Game 4 at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday night at 7 p.m.