The Red Deer Rebels haven’t won in Lethbridge since Jan. 3, 2015, but erased a 2-0 deficit Saturday night to win 4-2 in game one of their 2017 first round WHL series.
Red Deer had lost their last six on the road against the Hurricanes and overcame seven trips to the penalty box and a slow start to open the series with a victory.
“First period we were on our heels a lot, maybe nerves had something to do with it. In the first five minutes of the second we started moving our feet and started playing the game, started playing hockey,” Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter said.
“We got better, can we be better? Yes. But I just thought we started generating stuff and started defending better in the second and the third.”
Hurricanes forward Tyler Wong started the scoring in the first and Red Deer product Ryan Vandervlis extended the lead early in the second.
Michael Spacek forced a turnover at centre ice and danced his way into the Hurricanes end before outwaiting Lethbridge goalie Stuart Skinner. It was the first of the playoffs for the Winnipeg Jets draft pick and it cut the deficit to one late in the second.
The Rebels kept rolling 1:55 into the final frame when Cam Hausinger wired a wrist shot short side on Skinner from a near impossible angle. It was the 18-year-old’s first career playoff goal in his only post-season game.
Red Deer got a four-minute power play and scored 12 seconds in after a Spacek shot from the point landed on Brandon Hagel’s stick. The CHL player of the week from the final week of the regular season scored the game-winner with just over two minutes to play.
Lane Zablocki added an empty net goal for the Rebels and Riley Lamb finished the night with 25 saves.
“He was solid, he made some big saves, that’s what we want from our goaltenders,” Sutter said about Lamb’s performance.
Coming into the game the Hurricanes had been red hot against the Rebels converting on nine of 26 chances. On Saturday, Lethbridge didn’t score on any of their seven power play opportunities.
“We killed them off,” Sutter said about what his team did well on the penalty kill. “Have to like it if you kill them off, but we don’t want to be short-handed that many times. We have to be better in that area.”
Skinner also had the Rebels number this season with five wins and a .934 save percentage.
The two teams are back on the ice Sunday in Lethbridge with puck drop set for 6 p.m.