Red Deer Rebels forward Jaxsen Wiebe just misses a scoring opportunity on Calgary Hitmen goalie Jack McNaughton in the first period of WHL action at the Centrium Saturday night. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

Stotts buries hat trick, Hitmen sink Rebels

Riley Stotts was a real thorn in the Red Deer Rebels side Saturday.

The 19-year-old Calgary Hitmen forward potted a hat trick and almost single-handily buried the Rebels in a 5-1 victory for the visitors at the Centrium.

The veteran, who had 19 goals last season scored twice in the final frame, including a nice tip-in nine seconds into the period. His hat trick tally was shorthanded, while the Rebels were on their second consecutive power play of the third.

“It’s exciting, I was happy to get it (Saturday). It was good to get the win,” said Stotts about his first career hat trick.

Until Stott’s second of the game, the young Rebels were hanging with the Hitmen. But playing from behind for too much of the contest ended up catching up to the Rebels in the loss.

“We turned too many pucks over. We had pucks on our stick and we try and make a difficult play instead of making the easy play. We didn’t have good enough support in some areas. when you play that way, you get chasing the game,” said Rebels head coach Brent Sutter.

“When you have turnovers like that, especially through the neutral zone, they end up being scoring chances against you and for sure shots on goal against… that’s just the way it is. We have to stay with it. We’re four games in, it’s real hockey, major junior hockey for these kids… our veterans our making some mistakes they can’t make either.”

Early in the first period on the power play, Hitmen defenceman Egor Zamula ripped a seeing eye point shot past Byron Fancy, who was in his first start of the season.

The Rebels power play, which scored twice Friday night in Lethbridge, continued to roll midway through the first.

Defenceman Dawson Barteaux responded on the man-advantage for the second consecutive game, wiring a point shot through a crowd for his second of the season. Although that first attempt was good, the Rebels struggled on the man advantage throughout the contest and finished one-for-seven.

The power surge continued with nine minutes left in the period, only it was the Hitmen taking advantage for the second time. Stotts made a toe-drag into the slot and went upstairs over Fancy’s glove.

“I think it showed. Mistakes we make, turnovers and special teams in the first half of the game, they got two power play goals and we had a power play goal and some power play time and we didn’t generate anything,” Sutter said.

Just nine seconds into the third, Stotts redirected a shot from the half-wall past Fancy. The deflating tally was a tough one to take for the home side.

“It’s a sin in hockey to give up a goal in the first few minutes of a period or the last,” Sutter said.

“They scored nine seconds in the third, just a routine play, that should never happen. It’s a process.”

Late Red Deer’s second consecutive power play, it was Stotts shorthanded who made some more magic happen. He darted around the Rebels defence and buried a wrap-around for his hat trick goal.

“I was just trying to get up the ice as fast as I could. A good job by Luke (Prokop), threw it hard off the wall and I was able to get around the guy and around the goalie. It worked out,” Stotts said.

Layne Toder added a late goal and Jack McNaughton was solid with 15 saves for the Hitmen.

Before the contest, Sutter was honoured by the WHL, with a photo in honour of his 500th win last season. The Rebels bench boss is 11th all-time in WHL games coached and ninth all-time in wins with 501.

Three Stars: Riley Stotts (1), Egor Zamula (2) and Brett Davis (3).

The Rebels are back on the ice at the Centrium on Tuesday against the Saskatoon Blades with puck drop set for 7 p.m.

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