The Red Deer Rebels have set a new franchise record after their 15th consecutive win to start the Western Hockey League (WHL) season Saturday night in Moose Jaw.
Despite falling behind 2-0 in the first 23 minutes of the game, Red Deer rallied with four unanswered goals to pick up their 15th consecutive victory.
Head coach Steve Konowalchuk put it simply in his postgame interview that his team found a way to win.
“At the end of the day, that’s the bottom line and I’m really proud of them. It’s hard to say a whole lot after this game other than to just congratulate the players,” he said.
“They found a way to set a franchise record and it wasn’t easy. Moose Jaw came out to play and our guys just found a way to win. Can’t always have style points you don’t win as many games pretty all the time. It’s about finding different ways and to be shorthanded with the game on the line and a big goal is huge.”
Just over a minute into the game, Warriors forward Brayden Yager scored to put Moose Jaw up early in the contest.
Fast forward to the middle period, where the Warriors took a 2-0 lead when Atley Calvert fired one in on the powerplay. Late in the period, the Rebels climbed their way back into the game when forward Kai Uchacz scored off a beautiful passing play.
In the final frame while on the penalty kill, Jace Isley tied the game 2-2 after he was sent on a breakaway shorthanded and he made no mistake.
Three minutes later, Isley scored again off a deflection to put the Rebels on top for the first time of the evening.
With three minutes remaining in the game Rebels captain Jayden Grubbe took a minor penalty for hooking which set up the Warriors with a golden opportunity to potentially tie the game. The Warriors even pulled their goaltender Connor Ungar to make it a six-on-four opportunity.
However, the Rebels stood tall and knocked away multiple scoring chances before Uchacz fired in an empty net tally for his WHL-leading 15th goal of the season.
Konowalchuk explained Uchacz has played a great two-way game this season, which has led to him succeeding on the offensive end.
The Rebels have proved numerous times this season they’ve been a strong third-period team. Konowalchuk said their late-game success has a lot to do with the team’s positive mindset.
“As a coaching staff we like to preach to the guys… you don’t look at the big picture you look at one shift at a time and try to play the right way… I just think they keep believing and they’re positive,” he added.
Next up for the Rebels is back-to-back games against the Ice in Winnipeg on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Ice will arguably be the Rebels’ toughest test so far this season as they sit in second place in the eastern conference with a 15-1 record behind the Rebels.