Hitmen 4 Rebels 3 (OT)
The Red Deer Rebels saved all the drama for their final three games.
With just two wins in their first 20 games of the abbreviated WHL season, Red Deer picked up five of six points and played some of their best hockey of the year.
They couldn’t quite cap it off in perfect fashion Tuesday, falling in the final minute of overtime 4-3 to the Calgary Hitmen.
Red Deer had chances to win in the extra frame, including an acrobatic save by Calgary netminder Brayden Peters that kept the game tied.
“Sometimes in overtime like that, kinda trading chances. I thought if you don’t hit your chances, they’re going to get one. You have to make sure in overtime you bury your chances,” said Rebels assistant coach Ryan Colville.
It was rookie goalie Chase Coward who carried them to that point, finishing with 42 saves in the loss, five of which came in the extra frame.
He had 14 saves in the first, 15 in the second and 10 in the third in the hard-fought loss.
“He was awesome. I thought our first and second period was pretty inconsistent and he was the steady factor,” said Colville.
“He held us in there and gave us a chance to win in the end.”
Coward also left the game after a cut on his wrist with six minutes to play, only to get stitched up and return for overtime.
Ben King held the water on the offensive side, scoring twice in the third period.
King led the Rebels offensively all season long, finishing the year with 12 goals and 16 assists in 21 contests. He finished with eight points in his final three games.
Red Deer scored the only goal of the opening 20 minutes,late in the period when Mason Ward let a laser go from the point that snuck past Peters.
The second belonged to the Hitmen.
Calgary scored twice frame, with Sean Tschigerl capitalizing on a strange penalty by Zak Smith who got caught carrying two sticks.
Riley Stotts scored on another advantage just 1:33 later, burying after Jace Isley went off for unsportsmanlike conduct. Isley stepped up in defence of a teammate, which led to a pair of fights and game misconducts for Dallon Melin and Zac Funk.
The Hitmen outshot Red Deer 17-8 in the second.
Still, King found the equalizer for Red Deer just past the midway point of the third. Off the rush on the power play, veteran Chris Douglas made a great feed to King who tapped home his 11th goal of the year.
Calgary appeared to take the lead with 6:03 left in the third, but the goal was called off after the officials conferred on the play. Coward also left the game with a deep cut on his wrist as a result of the scramble in front on the goal.
King scored his second of the night and was close to sending the Rebels into the summer with a victory. Only, with the goalie out, the Hitmen buried on a scramble in front with 46 seconds left in regulation to tie the game.
In overtime, after Arshdeep Bains was robbed by Peters, the Hitmen drove the other way and scored on a rebound in front of Coward.
The Rebels also honoured three graduating players Tuesday with the three-star awards, as Josh Tarzwell, Chris Douglas and goalie Ethan Anders have aged out.