Rebels 2 Hitmen 0
Goaltender Chase Coward stopped all 22 shots as the Red Deer Rebels shut out the Calgary Hitmen.
The Rebels beat Hitmen 2-0 in Western Hockey League action at the Peavey Mart Centrium Friday night, thanks to goals from Arshdeep Bains and Blake Stevenson.
“It was a hard-fought win,” said head coach Steve Konowalchuk.
“Calgary came and they played like we expected. They played hard. They work hard, that team. It’s not always going to be pretty, you’ve got to work for everything.”
Coward was active early for Red Deer. He faced the game’s first eight shots in about nine minutes of action. His biggest stop of the first period came when Hitmen forward Zac Funk pounded a rebound towards the net. Coward slid across his crease and swallowed up the scoring chance.
“I had eight shots right off the start and that helped settle me in,” Coward said, adding he’s feeling comfortable in net this season.
“Looking back on last year, I’m so much more calm and I’m out of my net more playing the puck and seeing a lot more. It feels great this year.”
While on the power play, Rebels forward Kai Uchacz fired a shot from the circle, which was stopped by Hitmen goaltender Brayden Peters. Red Deer’s Blake Stevenson shovelled the rebound towards the net – the puck squeaked through the Calgary goalie and Bains tapped it in, 12:32 into the first period.
After being outshot 13-7 in the opening frame, Red Deer controlled play through much of the second, outshooting the Hitmen 11-4.
“I thought as the game went on, we got playing a little bit better,” said Konowalchuk.
It was “a little bit of rusty first period, but I thought as the game went on we started to get back to playing a smarter, simpler, harder game like we’re used to playing – a faster paced game. You aren’t going to play 60 minutes perfectly.”
The Hitmen had a chance to tie the game in the second when forward Sean Tschigerl was awarded a penalty shot after being hooked on a shorthanded breakaway. Coward stuck out his blocker to reject the penalty-shot attempt to keep his team ahead 1-0.
Tschigerl had two more solid chances 2:30 into the third period. Coward robbed him on a one-timer opportunity, then the Red Deer netminder stopped the Hitmen forward again as he tried to cash in on his own rebound.
“When they had a couple chances late in the game (Coward) was there,” Konowalchuk said.
The Hitmen pushed for another goal as the period continued to wind down.
Calgary’s Anton Astashevich rang a shot off of the post with about seven minutes. With about two minutes left, the Hitmen dumped the puck into the Rebels’ zone. Coward went to play the puck behind the net, but it took an odd bounce and ended up sitting in the crease. Fortunately for Red Deer, a defender was able to clear thew puck before the Hitmen could capitalize.
Stevenson added an empty-net marker for Red Deer with 40 seconds left on the clock. The Red Deer forward scored his eighth of the season after outmuscling Hitmen defender Tyson Galloway and firing the puck into the open cage – Kyle Master picked up the lone assist on the goal.
The Red Deer Rebels will host the Prince Albert Raiders at the Peavey Mart Centrium on Saturday. Puck drop is 7 p.m.