Rebels 4 Warriors 1
Offensively the Red Deer Rebels looked just fine Friday against the Moose Jaw Warriors.
But to a man they credited a solid defensive effort for their 4-1 Western Hockey League victory before an announced crowd of 4,355 at the Centrium.
“I liked our play in our end of the rink,” said Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin. “Our defensive zone coverage was strong down low and we had a number of guys willing to pay the price by blocking shots. That’s what it takes to be a good team and to win hockey games.
“Our effort and commitment was there from the start and our penalty kill was a key. The guys were aggressive, assertive and were reacting, not thinking. That lifts the bench and gives us a lot of momentum.”
The Rebels killed off all four shorthanded situations.
The Rebels did have a the odd turnover, and did spend a little more time in their own end in the third period than Wallin would have liked, but overall it was a solid two-way effort.
“Except for the turnovers they didn’t get many opportunities and we did play in our end a little more than we should in the third period, but that’s something we’ll tighten up,” Wallin added.
While the team defence was drawing praise, so were the Rebels main offensive threats, but once again for their defensive play.
“Our best guys were willing to commit and pay the price and play well defensively, which holds the rest of the team accountable,” said Wallin. “In the end they were rewarded for the way they played on defence.”
The Rebels were able to control one of the premier offensive teams in the Eastern Conference, limiting them to 22 shots. And when they did get a good chance, Rebels netminder Darcy Kuemper was square to shooter all evening.
Andrej Kudrna led the Red Deer offence with a goal, which proved to be the winner, and two helpers. Landon Ferraro, who moved into centre beside Kudrna with the injury to Nathan Green, had a goal and assist while Josh Cowan and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins added single markers.
Ferraro understood going into the game that the team’s offence would come from solid defence.
“We worked a lot on our defensive zone coverage in practice and it wasn’t bad,” he said. “We’ve been giving up to many odd-man rushes and for the most part we made sure we were strong on that.
“As well we made sure the younger guys were ready to go and they played well . . . in fact we did everything we planned on.”
The fact the Rebels were playing without Green and veteran defenceman and captain Colin Archer may have helped them prepare, said Ferraro.
“I don’t want to say it was easier as we’d love to have those two in the lineup, but it forced everyone to step it up a bit. It made everyone stay forced.”
Ferraro enjoyed playing alongside Kudrna and the two hooked up for the best goal of the evening. Ferraro started the play by blocking a shot at his own blueline which sent the two away on a two-on-two rush. Kudrna made a great play when he dove and swept the puck in front of the Moose Jaw goal to Ferraro, who was stopped, then banged in his own waist-high rebound .
“Andrej is a strong kid and plays a power game, something I like to play,” said Ferraro. “He made one heck of a pass (on my goal), but overall there’s nothing fancy about the line as we all just get to net and wack it in.”
Wallin gave Ferraro a lot of credit for the victory.
“He’s a guy we need to rely on for leadership and he stepped up in spades tonight,” he said.
While the Rebels veterans were solid, so was 15-year-old defenceman Matt Dumba, who was called up to help fill in this weekend.
Dumba took a regular shift and drew praise as well.
“For a youngster he looked good, especially considering he had a hectic day coming up from Calgary. He only got here 20 minutes before warm up, so he had a lot on his mind . . . it was an emotional night, but he settled in and looked fine.”
• Quinton Howden scored the lone Moose Jaw goal on a tip-in . . . Rebels were also without Nick Bell and Dalton Siwak and lost Cowan in the second period. . . Rebels host Medicine Hat tonight at 7:30 p.m.