Rebels 5 Blades 2
The Red Deer Rebels took care of business during the weekend.
With all apologies to Bachman-Turner Overdrive, the Rebels will be workin’ overtime over the next two weeks and change with a steady diet of the Medicine Hat Tigers and Calgary Hitmen — with a small dose of Swift Current Broncos — filling their slate.
The Rebels have both the Tigers and Hitmen on their schedule three times, with the run starting Tuesday and Friday with a home-and-home with the Tigers.
Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter is confident his crew, which downed the visiting Saskatoon Blades 5-2 Saturday at the Centrium, will be up to the challenge which starts with a road game versus the Tigers.
“We just have to continue playing at the level we’re playing,” Sutter said Sunday, in reference to his squad that is 7-1-1-1 in the last 10 outings. “Last night I thought we were really good outside of about seven minutes when we had some turnovers in our zone and got off our game a bit. Other than that, I thought we were very good.”
Coming off Friday’s 4-1 win over the visiting Lethbridge Hurricanes in which the Rebels did all of their damage in the third period, the hosts got an early goal from Grayson Pawlenchuk Saturday.
Blades captain Brett Stovin pulled his team into a 1-1 tie late in the opening period, but that was pretty much the only time the visitors threatened until late in the game when Red Deer was nailed with four of five third-period penalties.
Evan Polei gave the Rebels a permanent lead at 2:56 of the middle stanza, tipping Haydn Fleury’s power-play point shot past Blades netminder Alex Moodie, and Brooks Maxwell scored a similar goal just over 10 minutes later.
Presten Kopeck notched a short-handed marker at 7:51 of the third period — scoring on a wrap-around when Moodie could not regain his position in time when being caught behind the net — before Cam Hebig answered for the visitors with a power-play tally at 15:23.
Kopeck then put the game out of reach with an empty-net goal at 19:10.
Kopeck, Maxwell and Fleury were the men of the hour Saturday, similar to the role Pawlenchuk and linemates Conner Bleackley and Tyler Sandhu played the night before.
“We moved Johny (Wyatt Johnson) up with Maxie and Kopes and that gave that line more speed,” said Sutter. “They did a good job of managing the puck down low and using their speed off cycles.
“We need our older players to be guys who are really responsible and accountable and we’ve been getting that from them for the most part all season. Haydn played really well last night. His game is really starting to come now.”
Rylan Toth was sharp in the Rebels net, turning aside 28 shots. Moodie made 31 saves at the other end.
And now comes a severe stretch in Red Deer’s schedule, a span that Sutter feels can be a season-maker.
“We just have to stay the course, play the way we’re capable of playing and also continue to get better,” he said. “If you’re going to have success in this league, you have to have success against all team, not just certain teams.
“The best way to look at this upcoming stretch of games is that it’s another good challenge for our team, and we have to take it one game at a time. There are going to be times when there are momentum changes in these games, it just comes down to handling it the right way and making sure we have everyone playing up to their level.”