MEDICINE HAT — The secret to success for the Red Deer Rebels is no secret at all, according to GM/head coach Brent Sutter.
“When we play the right way, play hard and create scoring chances, we’re a good team,” Sutter said Friday, following a 6-4 Western Hockey League win over the Medicine Hat Tigers in front of 4,126 fans at the Canalta Centre.
“We had a lot of chances tonight … throughout the entire game.”
The Rebels, who were 5-2 winners over the Kootenay Ice in Wednesday’s first half of their two-game jaunt, trailed 1-0 a mere two minutes into Friday’s contest when Tigers overage forward Cole Sanford potted his ninth goal of the season.
But the Rebels — while outshooting their hosts 18-9 — struck for the next two first-period goals, with Brandon Hagel connecting on the power play at 7:23 and rookie Adam Pratt scoring 46 seconds later.
Red Deer continued to carry the play in the middle frame and opened a three-goal lead when Presten Kopeck tallied with the Tigers’ Alex Mowbray serving a high sticking penalty and Grayson Pawlenchuk sniped his 11th of the season.
Sanford scored his second of the night to cut the Rebels’ lead to 4-2 after 40 minutes, but the Rebels pretty much sealed the deal with third-period goals from Haydn Fleury and Conner Bleackley.
The Tigers responded with late markers — both coming in the final four minutes and change — from Max Gerlach and Brad Forrest, but they were too little, too late.
“After we got up 6-2 we dropped our guard a little bit and gave them too much ice through the neutral zone and allowed them to get a forecheck going,” said Sutter. “But overall we played pretty darn well here tonight.”
Rebels netminder Rylan Toth finished with 30 saves, while Mack Shields turned aside 36 shots.
“He (Toth) should have had the fourth goal, but he made some big saves, especially early,” said Sutter.
The Rebels boss was impressed with his fourth line of Hagel, Pratt and Jeff de Wit. Hagel added two assists and was named first star, while de Wit had a single helper.
The Rebels complete their stretch of four games in five nights when they host the Regina Pats this evening. Regina edged Red Deer 3-2 Tuesday at the Centrium.
“We said we needed to go on the road and get these two games and we did that,” said Sutter. “Now we get to come back home and play a team that beat us in our last game at home. We have to dial in for that one now.”