Things went almost exactly according to plan Sunday for the Red Deer Rebels– sort of.
They allowed a goal 94 seconds into the game against the Calgary Hitmen, in front of 17,000-plus fans at the Saddledome.
As it was their annual Teddy Bear Toss game, the unexpected early period interlude, lasted almost 45 minutes.
Rebels forward Cam Hausinger said Tuesday they had talked as a team about what might happen if they do allow an early goal and how it might help them in the long run.
“It was weird. But what was weirder is we were talking as a team, if they do get that first one, it’s almost going to be better, because we get it out of the way,” Hausginer said.
“It’s there in the back of our minds the entire time. If they do score the first one, lets just come back in and reset and get ready to go play. That’s what we did.”
Hausinger and the group turned out to be somewhat prophetic at that moment, as they seized control of the momentum and pushed one of the top teams in the WHL.
It didn’t pay dividends until the third period, when Joel Sexsmith got the Rebels within a goal and Hausinger jumped on an opportunity to tie the game before Josh Tarzwell won it in overtime.
It was the Rebels first win in five games, but there had been some encouraging signs in the two previous.
“Our last three games, our compete level has been high and we’ve been working really well. We just try to stick with those things, just grinding out there, getting pucks towards the net and getting guys there,” Hausinger said.
The 20-year-old forward has found his footing somewhat in a new role for the Rebels lately. Along with 19-year-old veteran Tarzwell, the older duo has been centered by youngster Jayden Grubbe.
They’ve found some real continuity of late, mostly frustrating the opponent’s top line night in and night out.
“We talk on the bench a lot. A lot of communication there… When we play against their top line, it’s a big step,” said Hausinger.
“Especially having a 16-year-old centre, he’s got a lot of defensive responsibility, so he knows he’s gotta be accountable down low. For us, two older players, it’s fun playing against those big lines.”
Hausinger, for his own play, has three goals and five points in his last four games. In part he said, that’s due to their ability to aggravate their opponents.
“It’s fun getting to shut then down,” said the Anchoridge, Alaska native.
“Getting them frustrated and pissed off. We take pride in that and we love doing that. Obviously, getting goals against them is even bigger. It just takes them right out of their game.”
That’ll be the case again Wednesday, as the Moose Jaw Warriors make a visit to the Centrium. Moose Jaw is one of the few teams in the league that has scored less than the Rebels this year, with 58 goals in 24 games, compared to Red Deer’s 68 in 26 games.
Still, they have a few dangerous weapons up from, like 20-year-old Brayden Tracey, who has 22 points in 14 games. Ryder Korczak, the Warriors top point producer with 29 in 22 games as a 17-year-old, is another player to watch for.
“Taking it to their top players, Tracey and Korczak, giving it to those guys because those are the guys that mold their whole team, that get them going,” Hausinger said.
Adam Evanoff has also only recently returned to the Warriors lineup and has a 2.93 goals against average and .924 save percentage. With Ethan Anders still listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury, Byron Fancy will likely start for Red Deer. He’s made 46 saves and allowed just three goals in his last two starts.
Puck drop is 7 p.m. Wednesday night at the Centrium.