With seven minutes left in the third period, it seemed the Red Deer Rebels were down for the count.
Forward Carson Birnie had just taken a four-minute high-sticking penalty, which would only leave the home team approximately three minutes left to tie a 1-0 lead by the Brandon Wheat Kings.
However, the resilient Red Deer Rebels didn’t give up.
Red Deer killed the penalty thanks to some stellar goaltending by Rhett Stoesser and a pair of blocked shots by defenceman Jace Weir.
Rebels forward Jayden Grubbe scored the equalizer with just over two minutes left and Kalan Lind fired in the game-winner in three-on-three overtime to take the victory.
“It was quite the game,” Lind said postgame. “It was kind of back and forth and we didn’t have our hottest start. We came out in the second and started to find our gears again and in the third, we were all rolling by then.”
Lind explained he didn’t see his game-winning goal cross the line but threw it on net in hopes it would get through.
Lind’s 14th tally of the year also happened to be his fifth goal in five games just in time for his appearance in the NHL/CHL Top Prospects game he’ll attend next Wednesday. It’s also the Rebels’ fifth consecutive victory.
“It was a big character win by us. We have a great game from Stoesser. He’s been kicking all year ever since [Kyle Kelsey] got hurt he came in and he’s fulfilled the role now. He’s playing hot so it’s really good to see.”
The rookie goaltender made 32 saves in the victory but on the other end of the ice Brandon netminder, Nicholas Jones was equally as impressive with 28 saves of his own.
Rewind to the beginning of the game where both teams had plenty of scoring chances in the first period but neither could bury their opportunities. As the final few minutes drifted down in the period the Wheat Kings were on the powerplay and Stoesser made back-to-back impressive stops.
It wasn’t until just over four minutes into the second period that the first goal was scored. Wheat Kings forward Nolan Ritchie pounced on a rebound in front and placed it top corner after maneuvering his stick between his legs.
Both goaltenders continued their solid play the rest of the frame and despite more quality chances, the Rebels couldn’t find the score sheet. After 40 minutes the Wheat Kings had the upper hand 1-0.
Tempers boiled over quickly in the third period when Rebels Kai Uchacz dropped the gloves with logen Hammett. The two middle-weights traded punches for what seemed like multiple minutes before Hammett went down.
During the four-minute man advantage, Stoesser robbed Brandon of what looked like a guaranteed goal but the rookie slid across the crease to make the glove save.
The Rebels killed off the penalty much to the delight of the home crowd. Their effort sent the Rebels to the powerplay where Jayden Grubbe redirected a pass from Uchacz that beat the goaltender in the top corner. In overtime, it only took the Rebels 40 seconds to score but once Lind fired it in his teammates swarmed him to celebrate.
Head coach Steve Konowalchuk said he was proud of his team for battling through what he called not their best-executed game.
“Give them the credit they came out and they’re in playoff mode right now and they came out and played like that,” he said. “We just weren’t as sharp but when the game was on the line they dug deep.
“First of all, Stoesser made some huge saves to keep it to one goal. The penalty kill really won us the game in the end. Weir had huge blocked shots… they don’t go on the score sheet or always get celebrated but huge blocked shot to keep it 1-0.”
Konowalchuk also gave credit to Uchacz for his fight that kickstarted the team but also to Grubbe who was in “beast mode all game.”
“As much as there were a few things we definitely didn’t like throughout the game I think that just showed a lot of character to find a way, fight through, and get it done when they needed to,” Konowalchuk added.