Rebels victimized by hot Tigers goaltender

The Red Deer Rebels picked up a valuable Western Hockey League point on Wednesday at the Centrium.

Red Deer Rebel Willie Coetzee is upended by Medicine Hat Tiger Mark Isherwood during the Tigers’ 2-1 shootout win on Wednesday.

Tigers 2 Rebels 1 (SO)

The Red Deer Rebels picked up a valuable Western Hockey League point on Wednesday at the Centrium.

They deserved two.

The Rebels ran into a sizzling-hot netminder in Tyler Bunz, who turned aside 36 shots through regulation time and a five-minute extra frame, and two more in a shootout to give the Medicine Hat Tigers a 2-1 win before a recorded gathering of 4,040.

“He played well, you have to give him credit for putting in a performance like that,” said Rebels defenceman Cullen Morin. “But we had to find a way to score.”

The Rebels held a healthy 22-3 shot advantage during the third period and finally beat Bunz with 30 seconds remaining, as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, with Red Deer on the power play and goaltender Darcy Kuemper on the bench, connected from a scramble.

“It was good to see that everyone stayed with it. Sometimes in a hockey game it takes 59 minutes to get that big goal, but we hung in there tonight and got a big point,” said Morin. “We’re not happy that we lost the other one, but we’ll take the point and move on.”

Red Deer had all three shots in the scoreless five-minute overtime stanza, including a Brett Ferguson backhand from close range. Bunz then stoned Willie Coetzee and Ferguson in the shootout, while Tristan King and Jace Coyle beat Kuemper to nail down the victory.

“He (Bunz) definitely made some big stops for them and for a while there it was getting frustrating on the bench. It just didn’t seem like we were going to get anything by him,” said Red Deer head coach Jesse Wallin, whose club managed only 12 shots at Bunz through the first 40 minutes although a handful were of the dangerous variety.

“Having said that, we really focused during the second intermission on just staying with it and doing the little things and bearing down around the net. I think our group had a pretty good feeling on the bench in the third period that we were going to find a way to get one. It took us 59 and a half minutes to do it, but we found a way.”

With Red Deer taking five of six minor penalties through the first two periods, the Tigers fired 19 shots at Kuemper but found the back of the net just once, when Bretton Cameron took a cross-ice pass from Wacey Hamilton during a power play and scored on a one-timer at 7:04 of the second frame.

The game turned in the third period as Medicine Hat took all four penalties, including a late infraction to King.

“They (Rebels) had some power plays in the third and that gave them some momentum,” said Tigers head coach Willie Desjardins. “We has some power plays earlier so it kind of balanced out.”

As for the play of his 17-year-old netminder, Desjardins offered only a brief comment.

“Bunz played real well. He’s played well for us lately and he had a real good game tonight,” he said.

The Rebels struggled to maintain any offensive pressure through the first 40 minutes, but also didn’t surrender a whole lot of scoring opportunities.

“We weren’t skating the way we can early on, we seemed to be skating through quicksand in the first period,” said Wallin. “But our damage control was good. We gave up a couple of rushes where we were sloppy on line changes, but outside of that I thought we did a pretty good job in our end of containing and keeping the puck to the outside.

“They (Tigers) had three guys back so it tough to get into their zone and get a lot going off the rush the first two periods. Being short-handed (with forwards Landon Ferraro, Nathan Green and John Persson out with injuries) we weren’t sending two guys on the forecheck. In the third we got a little more aggressive, sent a couple guys in, started pinching our defence and created more that way.”

Wallin gladly accepted the single point, but insisted his club was far from content with the final outcome after their dominant third period.

“The message in the room (following the game) is we battled hard to get the point, but we can’t be satisfied with coming up short,” he said. “We got to the shootout and in that situation anything can happen. But we have to keep forging ahead and start getting prepared for Friday night (at Prince Albert) right away.”

gmeachem@bprda.wpengine.com

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