Red Deer Rebels forward Kai Uchacz celebrates after sniping a goal earlier this season. (Photo by Ian Gustafson/ Advocate staff)

Red Deer Rebels forward Kai Uchacz celebrates after sniping a goal earlier this season. (Photo by Ian Gustafson/ Advocate staff)

Rebels roll over Hitmen to take 3-1 series lead

They’ll have a chance to move on Friday

The Red Deer Rebels have taken a commanding 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

Red Deer defeated the Calgary Hitmen 6-1 Wednesday evening to take a stranglehold on the series. After dropping Game 2 at the Peavey Mart Centrium last weekend, the Rebels stole both Games 3 and 4 in Calgary at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

Head coach Steve Konowalchuk said despite the score, the Hitmen put up a good fight.

“They battled hard and it was tight,” he said. “I think a lot of the game didn’t have as much flow as probably either team would like with both teams going to the box. At the end of the day, I thought our guys played fairly hard.”

The Hitmen struck first just five and a half minutes into the second period off the stick of defenceman Carter Yakemchuk.

The Rebels went on to score four unanswered goals in the middle frame that began with a one-time shot from the left circle by forward Ben King. King returned to the lineup in Game 3 after missing four games with an upper-body injury.

At the midway point of the second rookie forward Ollie Josephson notched his first of the postseason when he sniped a wrist shot from the slot while on the penalty kill.

With under two minutes left in the period Red Deer scored yet another shorthanded tally. This time Jhett Larson scored on the backhand while on a two-on-one rush with Jayden Grubbe. With 30 seconds left, defenceman Hunter Mayo scored the Rebels’ fourth goal of the period.

In the third period, King buried his second of the game to put the away team up 5-1 early in the frame on the powerplay.

At the 12:09 mark in the third Kai Uchacz potted his fourth goal of the playoffs. It was also the Rebels’ third powerplay goal of the evening on six opportunities.

The Hitmen certainly had plenty of opportunities to get on the board, especially on the powerplay but only managed to score once on 11 opportunities on the man advantage.

Konowalchuk said much like in the regular season, special teams are an important factor in the postseason.

“It was nice to chip in on the powerplay and get rewarded on a couple of chances,” he added.

“The penalty kill stepped up too. Special teams are big in playoffs and we’ve just got to keep working to get better at both of them.”

The Rebels will have an opportunity to move on to the Eastern Conference semifinals this Friday at the Peavey Mart Centrium when they host the Hitmen in Game 5 at 7 p.m.

“We’ve just got to look at it like another hockey game. We want to keep a really short-term focus. We don’t look at the big picture and I don’t want the guys looking at the big picture,” Konowalchuk said/

“We’ve just got to focus on the next game, next shift.”

In other Western Hockey League news on Wednesday night, the Winnipeg Ice swept the Medicine Hat Tigers and the Moose Jaw Warriors swept the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

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