Rebels 5 Hitmen 3
And the beat goes on.
The Red Deer Rebels chalked up their 11th consecutive Western Hockey League win Saturday at the Centrium, overcoming a slow start to defeat the Calgary Hitmen 5-3 before a crowd of 5,395.
The contest wasn’t as close the score indicated, despite the fact the Hitmen were the better club in the opening 20 minutes and took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.
“We certainly didn’t play the way we wanted to in the first period,” said Rebels head coach/vice-president of hockey operations Jesse Wallin. “For whatever reason we didn’t have a lot of jump on the bench.
“Guys seemed to be gasping for air and we didn’t have our legs under us.”
The Hitmen got first-period markers form Ben Wilson, whose point shot at 11:46 beat a screened netminder Darcy Kuemper, who was then caught out of position three minutes later and surrendered a goal to John Lawrence.
The Rebels caught a break a mere 50 seconds into the middle frame when John Persson’s corner pass glanced off a Hitmen skate and past goaltender Michael Snider.
By the mid-point of the period the Rebels were taking the play to the visitors and got a power-play marker from Byron Froese at 17:21. The 19-year-old forward roofed a shot from the right faceoff circle with Red Deer enjoying a two-man advantage.
“We came out in the second period and turned it around,” said Wallin. “In the first period we didn’t establish any forecheck and we were chasing, but we got our feet moving in the second.
“We started to take over. The power play goal was huge and we controlled a lot of the play from that point.”
Indeed, after outshooting the Hitmen 16-4 in the second frame, the Rebels held a 21-7 advantage in the final 20 minutes while getting two more goals from Froese and another from rookie rearguard Matt Dumba.
Froese gave the Rebels a 3-2 lead at 7:25 when he beat Snider with a rebound while on his knees at the side of the net, and Dumba blew a 40-footer past the Calgary stopper three minutes later.
Cody Sylvester pulled the Hitmen to within one at 13:13 and the visitors thought they had the equalizer a couple of minutes later, but a replay showed that Misha Fisenko’s stick was over his shoulder when he redirected a point shot past Kuemper.
Froese then sealed the deal with a later power-play marker, his 27th goal of the season completing a hat-trick performance.
“All my goals were off of great passes and great plays by my teammates so I can’t take a lot of credit,” he insisted. “We were all working hard and it seemed like we kept the puck in their (Calgary’s) end the second half of the game.”
Froese’s effort was appreciated by Wallin, who acquired the Manitoba product in an off-season steal of a deal that sent Landon Ferraro to Everett.
“He’s been just a tremendous player for us,” said the Rebels bench boss.
“He’s solid at both ends of the ice and what you really appreciate as a coach is his intelligence.”
Wallin also credited the Hitmen for forcing his crew to bear down over the final 40 minutes.
“Like I said to the guys, that was a good test for us tonight and a good lesson,” he said. “Our games with Calgary are always intense. You look at their position in the standings and you might think they’re not a very good hockey team, but they certainly don’t play like a last-place team.”
Kuemper finished with 18 saves while Snider turned aside 38 shots.
The Rebels head to Saskatchewan Monday for games against the Saskatoon Blades and Prince Albert Raiders Tuesday and Wednesday.
Red Deer’s next home game is Friday versus the Moose Jaw Warriors.