Brent Sutter has become the ninth head coach in Western Hockey League history to win 500 games.
The Red Deer Rebels’ GM/head coach reached the milestone in an 8-4 win over the Kootenay Ice at the Centrium Saturday night.
“I don’t know, I guess I’ve just been around a long time,” Sutter said with a laugh after the victory.
While Saturday’s game may be just one in 500, it was a big win for Red Deer as it continues to fight for a playoff berth.
Sutter said he liked the Rebels’ first and third periods, but not the middle frame.
“I thought we were sloppy (in the second) and once we got up three or four goals there, I thought we got away from our game. We started doing things you shouldn’t be doing and can’t afford to be doing this time of year. Once you start getting some bad habits you know where that leads to,” said Sutter.
The Rebels struck first, when defenceman Ethan Sakowich pinged a wrist shot off the post – the puck bounced right to Cameron Hausinger who fired it into the yawning cage 6:47 minutes in.
Reese Johnson, Rebels captain, added a shorthanded goal about three minutes later. Brandon Hagel collected the puck and went on a two-on-one break with Johnson. Hagel slid the puck to his captain, who shovelled it past Ice goaltender Jesse Makaj.
After the Rebels killed the rest of the penalty, Hagel drew an interference penalty to give his team the man advantage.
Johnson scored his second of the game 12 seconds into the ensuing power play, hammering a one-timer high blocker side. Dawson Barteaux and Hagel recorded the assists.
Ice forward Nolan Orzeck put his team on the board, slipping around Rebels defender Ryan Gottfried and sliding a shot by Rebels netminder Ethan Anders.
In his 43rd career game, Rebels rookie Chase Leslie scored his first goal 2:14 into the second period.
“It’s kind of been a running thing all year with guys bugging him (about not scoring),” said Sutter. “Leslie’s played well for us, for a 16-year-old kid who’s come into our lineup.”
About two minutes later, Red Deer’s Zak Smith slid a perfect cross-crease pass to Jeff de Wit who banged in the puck.
Kootenay’s Jaeger White scored 7:18 into the period. Red Deer’s Alex Morozoff then took a five-minute major penalty for boarding and was ejected from the game. The Ice capitalized once on the long power play, as forward Connor McClennon beat Anders with a wrist shot.
Smith got the goal back, tipping a Carson Sass shot and beating Makaj five-hole, but Kootenay brought the game within two goals again when Jakin Smallwood redirected a pass from McClennon into the Rebels net.
Hagel was able to add another goal for the Rebels with just 25 seconds left in the period. He tapped home a rebound, that just squeaked loose, following a point shot from Barteaux on the power play.
Josh Tarzwell scored the only third-period goal, converting off a rebound with just over two minutes remaining on the clock.
Johnson, who finished with two goals and an assist, said a fast start to the game was key.
“We wanted to come out flying and we did. We just let off after a bit. We’ve got to learn to keep our foot on the pedal,” he said.
Red Deer was without their top defender Alex Alexeyev, who was hurt in Friday’s game against the Brandon Wheat Kings.
The Rebels will host the Edmonton Oil Kings Tuesday. Red Deer will then hit the road to battle the Tigers in Medicine Hat Wednesday.
Red Deer is tied with Medicine Hat for the top wild card spot in the Eastern Conference with 72 points, but the Tigers have played one more game.