Rebels 5 Wheat Kings 4
The Red Deer Rebels, bullied and abused roughly two nights previous, pushed back in a big way on Sunday evening at the Centrium.
The Rebels, so passive during Friday’s 6-3 loss to the visiting Saskatoon Blades, showed the Brandon Wheat Kings another side of their personality, exploding for three unanswered third-period goals in a 5-4 triumph that should work wonders for team confidence.
“It was a great team effort tonight and just goes to show that if you stick with your game plan, you don’t have to do anything special when you’re down by a couple of goals,” said Rebels rearguard Cullen Morin, who helped out on two goals. “We just stuck with it, kept getting pucks out and pucks in. We were hard on the forecheck and went to the net, and it paid off tonight.”
The evening didn’t start well for the home side, as Jay Fehr and Matt Calvert converted two-on-one breaks in the first 11 minutes.
To add harm to humiliation, Calvert’s goal came with Red Deer on the power play.
The Rebels, however, battled back with goals from John Persson and Brett Ferguson before the period expired. But after being outshot 10-4 and outscored 2-0 in the middle frame, with Mark Schneider and Finnish flash Toni Rajala pulling the trigger for the visitors, the chances of a third-period rally had to seem remote to even the casual observer among the announced gathering of 4,324.
And yet the Rebels bucked the odds and struck for a trio of timely tallies. Colin Archer connected 2:46 into the final frame and Willie Coetzee potted the tying goal and then the winner, the latter being the end result of an effervescent effort in the final minute.
On the clincher, Coetzee grabbed a loose puck near the Red Deer blueline, busted down the left side and then slipped around defenceman Brodie Melnychuk. While doing so, the puck glanced off the skate of the defender, but the Rebels leading scorer — now with seven goals and 16 points in 10 games — had it back on his stick in a flash, then cut to the middle of the ice and buried the rubber behind netminder Andrew Hayes.
“It was just a hard effort by our D-man getting the puck out (of the Red Deer zone),” said Coetzee. “I just happened to get the puck and made a good play with it.”
Two good plays, actually. If he hadn’t properly handled the bounce off Melnychuk’s skate, overtime likely have would followed.
“I was just keeping with it. I wanted to do anything I could to get that goal,” Coetzee offered.
And just like that, the Rebels had turned what — after 40 minutes — looked like another demoralizing defeat into an elevating victory.
“It’s a big motivator. We just have to keep our confidence up now and keep it going,” said Coetzee. “We have a good hockey club here, we just have to know that and play hard every game.”
Throw the x’s and o’s out the window while discussing the Rebels’ third-period rally. There was nothing cerebral or mystical that came into play.
“I just thought our work ethic was better (than was the case in Friday’s debacle),” said Red Deer head coach Jesse Wallin. “We really focused on that part of our game, just competing and winning battles, playing assertive and being abrasive.
“There were times that we could have sagged. We made some mistakes that led to odd-man breaks and (Brandon) goals, but we just continued to work and stayed focused instead of waiting for something bad to happen. I thought that was the key for us. It took some work ethic and determination to come back. We didn’t do anything special, we stuck with it and did things rights and got the result we wanted.”
That result was not only a second win over the 2010 Memorial Cup host Wheat Kings in as many meetings this fall, but a bounce-back performance after absorbing a terribly troubling trouncing two nights earlier.
“We weren’t happy with our game on Friday night,” said Wallin, while stating the obvious. “Granted, Saskatoon has a good hockey team and came in here and played well. But we didn’t play anywhere near how we’re capable of playing.
“We were disappointed and upset about that, and it was important that we got a response tonight. The win is huge, but really what I wanted to see was the effort, the compete level that we need to bring. This win was a result of that.”