Rebels 4 Thunderbirds 3 (SO)
The Red Deer Rebels flexed their muscles in the third period en route to a 4-3 Western Hockey League shootout win over the Seattle Thunderbirds on Tuesday, leaving head coach Jesse Wallin wondering where that effort was earlier in the contest.
The Rebels watched the T-Birds fire three unanswered second-period goals to wipe out a 2-0 deficit before an announced gathering of 4,108 at the Centrium, then got a late power-play goal from Nathan Green to force a scoreless overtime stanza, which in turn led to a successful shootout session.
“I thought we showed some character coming back in the third, but the message in the room (following the game) was if we’d played that way for three periods it wouldn’t have been necessary,” said Wallin.
“Our first period was OK, but we really stood around and watched in the second period. We gave up too much space through the neutral zone, our defence were backing in and we gave up a few opportunities that ended up in our net. It was just from being passive.
“We got our legs going in the third period and played the way we need to play.
“We were skating, we got up on the forecheck, we were aggressive and stronger on the puck and we had success because of that. We just have to find that level of consistency.”
The Rebels jumped out to a 2-0 first-period lead when Green buried a behind-the-net feed from Willie Coetzee at 7:46, and defenceman Aaron Borejko’s shot through a crowd found the back of the net at 18:46.
But the visitors took over in the second frame, outshooting their hosts 12-9 and getting markers from Colin Jacobs, from a scramble, Lindsay Nielsen, off a rebound, and Jonathan Parker on a nifty wrist shot from the high slot.
“We were starting to get back on our heels a bit in the second and I don’t know why we did that,” said Rebels netminder Kraymer Barnstable, who got his first home-ice start of the season.
“No one was happy in the dressing room (during the second intermission) and you could sense that we were going to come out in the third with a better effort.”
With the Thunderbirds seemingly protecting their narrow led, the Rebels were dominant in the third period, outshooting their guests 20-6 and finally potting the tying goal, with Green slipping a backhand past goaltender Calvin Pickard — who was otherwise brilliant — with just 74 seconds remaining.
The Rebels were then forced to kill off a holding penalty to Borejko in overtime before getting the shootout winner from Coetzee, the first shooter of the session and the only goal-scorer. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Green failed to beat Pickard, while Barnstable denied Seattle gunners Parker, Jacobs and Prab Rai.
“‘Barney’ really stood on his head tonight and I really give him a lot of credit for the way he played.
“He (won) it for us, I think,” said Green.
Barnstable was ecstatic after stoning Jacobs and sealing the victory.
“I’m a pretty emotional guy. I love to win and shootouts are one of my favourite parts of the game,” said Barnstable, whose stunning glove save on Rai in overtime was of the highlight-reel variety. “I wasn’t really happy with my second period, I thought I should have (stopped) a couple of the goals. But our team played well in the third and we deserved to win that game.”
Wallin praised his goaltender, who like his teammates, was able to shrug off a tough second period.
“The first (Seattle) goal was a tough one and on the second one he gave out a bit of a tough rebound, but ‘Barney’ played well,” said the Rebels boss. “He hasn’t played a lot of hockey for us this season but the guys are confident playing in front of him.
“You know you’re going to get an effort out of ‘Barney’ every night. He works his butt off and he’s a great teammate. He made a huge save in overtime. All you can ask from a goaltender is to give you a chance to win and Barney did that for us tonight.”
Barnstable finished with 29 saves through 65 minutes, while Pickard turned aside 40 shots.