Rebels 5 Blades 1
Apparently the intimidation factor doesn’t have a long shelf life.
When the Saskatoon Blades invaded the Centrium on Oct. 9, they bullied the Red Deer Rebels en route to an easy 6-3 victory.
The Rebels, however, turned the tables on the visitors in a big way on Saturday. Red Deer was the more aggressive team from the get-go and skated to a convincing 5-1 Western Hockey League triumph over Saskatoon before a recorded gathering of 4,211.
“Our team is way better defensively when we’re taking the body,” said Darcy Kuemper, who turned aside 35 shots in the Rebels net, including a second-period penalty shot by Stefan Elliott. “That’s our identity. When we get away from that we get into trouble sometimes, but when we play like we did tonight we’re a great team.”
The Rebels were indeed impressive against a squad that was coming off a 2-1 shootout win at Medicine Hat on Friday night and had suffered just five regulation-time setbacks. Alex Petrovic staked the hosts to a 1-0 first-period lead when he snuck in from the point and cashed a power-play rebound, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, on a man-advantage wrap-around at 5:44 of the second period, supplied the Rebels with the eventual winner.
Before the middle frame was over, Willie Coetzee ripped a wrist shot past Blades goaltender Adam Morrison and Turner Elson buried a short-handed rebound for a 4-0 lead.
“Having all those goals on the board made my job a lot easier,” said Kuemper. “It’s a great feeling and most importantly we got the big win tonight.”
Coetzee potted the Rebels’ third power-play marker of the evening and his 13th of the season just 24 seconds into the third period, and Walker Wintoneak spoiled Kuemper’s shutout bid with a man-advantage tally at 10:34.
Morrison finished with 41 saves as the Rebels buzzed the Blades’ end all evening.
“We played the way we needed to play,” said Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin, whose club improved to 15-14-0-0. “We had everybody going. Everybody was working and competing hard and we were moving our feet.
“We played a fairly simple game and did the little things well through most of the night. Our defence got pucks going ahead in our own end. We did a pretty good job of making sure the puck got deep through the neutral zone and didn’t make many turnovers tonight, which a good team will capitalize on.”
The Rebels, for the most part, were relentless when the Saskatoon defencemen were pursuing pucks in their own end.
“We had to make sure we got pucks behind their defence and worked them in their zone,” said Wallin. “We did a real good job on our forecheck and competing down low. We controlled the play below the circles in their end.”
For the Rebels, it was their second consecutive positive result after posting a 4-3 win on Friday in Lethbridge. The Rebels, still minus two of their top six forwards in Nathan Green (leg fracture) and Landon Ferraro (knee), were forced to stay overnight in Lethbridge due to road condiitions and didn’t arrive back in Red Deer until 1 p.m.
“But excuses are just that — excuses,” said Wallin. “
The Rebels are idle until Wednesday when they host the Medicine Hat Tigers.