Rebels 4 Hitmen 1
The Red Deer Rebels entered Friday’s Western Hockey League contest minus the services of two of their top defencemen.
And when their No. 1 rearguard, Alex Petrovic, was booted in the second period after being assessed a questionable checking-from-behind major and game misconduct, the Rebels’ back end was depleted big time.
Not to worry. Byron Froese continued his strong play on the blueline and fellow forward Brett Ferguson also excelled while out of position as the Rebels nailed down a 4-1 win over the Calgary Hitmen before a crowd of 5,973 at the Centrium.
“I thought we got a gutsy effort from a lot of guys,” said Rebels head coach/vice-president of hockey operations Jesse Wallin. “We had some key guys (Justin Weller and Matt Dumba) out of the lineup and then Petro left in the second period. But we had some guys step up and play some big minutes for us.
“Byron Froese and then Brett Ferguson ended up on the back end for the majority of the game after we lost Petro and they did a great job for us. At the same time, our forwards picked up the slack.”
The Rebels dominated the opening frame, firing 17 shots at Hitmen netminder Michael Snider but potting just a single goal, as Petrovic connected with a power-play wrist shot from between the blueline and the faceoff circle.
The second period was a different story, as the Rebels were assessed three consecutive minor penalties and the major to Petrovic, who drove a Hitmen player into the boards. The hit didn’t result in an injury and the Calgary player was partially facing Petrovic at the time of impact.
The Rebels, thanks mainly to the outstanding play of goaltender Darcy Kuemper, who finished with 36 saves, surrendered just a single goal — to Brooks Macek — and got out of the period with a 2-1 lead on Ferguson’s 19th of the season.
“We had a good first period and then we were a little flat to start the second period,” said Wallin, who wasn’t tickled with the officiating.
“We allowed them (Hitmen) to take a bit of the momentum, but we gutted it out and got turned around, and I thought we played real well in the third period.”
Froese sealed the deal with a pair of third-period power-play markers, his 31st and 32nd of the season.
“I got one five-on-five shift up front, then played defence the rest of the game,” said Froese. “It’s different, that’s for sure. I haven’t done that since peewee or bantam and it was a good experience.
“I’d rather be helping out up front, but I’m just going to help out wherever the teams needs me to play.”
The Rebels’ special teams were almost perfect, going three-for-three on the power play and killing seven of eight Calgary opportunities, including a two-man advantage for 1:24 in the second period.
“Special teams are always huge, a big part of the game nowadays,” said Wallin. “Especially tonight, when there seemed to be a different standard between the two teams. You need your special teams to be important and do the job for you when that happens.”
Hitmen netminder Michael Snider turned aside 32 shots.