Red Deer 3 Swift Current 2
The Red Deer Rebels had to put on their work boots to get past the Swift Current Broncos.
In the first of three games on their eastern road swing, Red Deer needed a late third-period goal Wednesday to push past the last-place Broncos.
Zak Smith buried his first career game-winning goal in the 3-2 victory when he deposited his eighth tally of the season with 6:58 left in the game.
Along with newly minted forward Chase Leslie and Dallon Melin, the rookie line has quickly found some chemistry and contributed when the Rebels needed it most.
“It was a really big goal from that line. They deserved it. They kept it simple, they got pucks deep and outworked their opponents. They gave us a lot of energy on the bench,” said Rebels assistant coach Brad Flynn.
Out of the gate, it was all Swift Current. The Broncos outshot Red Deer 5-1 in the opening five minutes and were out to a 1-0 lead just under two minutes in.
After a point shot was directed into the slot by Rebels netminder Byron Fancy, Broncos forward Carter Chorney buried a rebound to open up the advantage.
Red Deer would pour the pressure on after that point before Dawson Barteaux notched the equalizer on the power play.
The Dallas Stars sixth-round draft pick wired a shot through a crowd that eluded Broncos’ rookie goalie Issac Poulter.
With uncle mo swiftly swinging in the Rebels favour, leading scorer Brandon Hagel broke the deadlock in the second. Ryan Gottfried feathered a pass to Hagel, who slipped in his 23rd goal of the year with just under 12 minutes to play in the period.
“I think we just did a good job in the second of game management,” Flynn said.
“Getting pucks in deep and not trying to force things. Second period tells a lot about a team. Real good teams make sure they set themselves up for the third and we didn’t turn pucks over or make costly mistakes and limited their chances.”
Despite a dominant stretch from Red Deer, Swift Current found the tying goal nine minutes into the third. A Joona Kiviniemi one-timer beat Fancy, just after a penalty to Rebels defenceman Alex Alexeyev for boarding had expired.
There seemed to be no panic in the Rebels’ game after the tying goal and they quickly took hold of the contest 3:44 later. Alexeyev directed the puck towards Poulter and the rebound bounced right to Smith. The young forward buried his eighth goal of the year and it also turned out to be his first career game-winning goal.
Fancy picked up his third career win in his second straight start. He turned aside 21 shots in the victory. Red Deer swept the season series 4-0 with Swift Current.
The WHL Trade Deadline is at 3 p.m. Thursday and the Rebels will continue their road trip Friday against the Brandon Wheat Kings.