Rebels 2 Hurricanes 1 (SO)
The Lethbridge Hurricanes breezed into the Centrium on Friday night and early on looked like they would evolve into a storm.
But the Red Deer Rebels found their bearings during the second half of the opening frame and the game evolved into a nail-biter.
In the end, the Rebels prevailed 2-1 in a shootout, the one-on-one goal coming from Matt Bellerive, who whipped a shot past workhorse netminder Ty Rimmer.
Rimmer, who has started all but one game for Lethbridge this season, did his best to gain two points for the visitors, turning aside 45 shots through 65 minutes. But the Rebels persevered and racked up their fourth consecutive win.
“It was a hard-fought game, one of those nights when their goalie obviously played very well,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “As did our’s when we needed him.”
Indeed, Patrik Bartosak was lights out in the Red Deer net and was arguably the better netminder on the night. Of the 24 shots he faced, several were of the difficult variety.
He certainly couldn’t be faulted for the lone goal he surrendered, with Jaimen Yakubowski — from the top of the crease — burying a behind-the-net pass from Sam MacKechnie six minutes into the contest.
The Rebels regrouped and carried the play through the second half of the period, but couldn’t connect on any of the 10 shots they mustered at Rimmer.
“After the first eight minutes we got moving, we were standing around too much to that point and were allowing them to control that part of the game,” said Sutter.
“Once we got going we started playing the way we want to play. We were much better on our puck pursuit and with our pressure and had a lot of quality scoring chances.”
Red Deer didn’t draw even until the final minute of the second period when rookie forward Conner Bleackley carried the puck over the visitors’ blueline and while being tied up by a pair of defenders, turned and unleashed a shot that glanced off a Lethbridge player and past Rimmer.
“I buried one of my worst chances but I’ll take them any way they can,” said Bleackley, who was a handful for the ‘Canes all night.
“I started slow and was turning the puck over but I kind of refocused in the first intermission.
As a team we just stuck with it tonight and put a lot of pucks on net and that’s what we need to do.”
Bartosak also played a major role in the outcome, making outstanding pad saves on Brady Ramsay and Russell Maxwell and a diving stop on Macoy Erkamps.
And then he stopped all three Lethbridge hopefuls — Jay Merkley, McKechnie and Yakubowski — in the shootout.
Red Deer moved a point past the Hurricanes and into third place in the Central Division and fourth spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Rebels have allowed just three goals during their four-game winning streak. Sutter said there’s been no mystery surrounding the team’s Scrooge-like play.
“Just having the puck more, it’s pretty simple,” he said. “It’s all about puck-possession time. If you can have the puck in your hands more then you can spend more time in the offensive zone and a lot less time in your own zone.
“We still need to get better in that area, but we’ve been able to create offensive chances with our puck-possession time and that’s been the difference.”
The Rebels host the Moose Jaw Warriors tonight. Game time is 7:30 p.m.