Warriors 4 Rebels 3 (OT)
Resiliency isn’t always enough to capture two points in the Western Hockey League.
Some nights, the capacity to come from behind and stick with your opponent is rewarded in the standings but on New Year’s Eve in Moose Jaw, there was no such gift for the Red Deer Rebels.
The Warriors earned a 4-3 overtime victory Friday in front of 2,566 fans At Mosaic Place after the Rebels erased a 2-0 deficit in the second and tied the game at three in the third.
Jagger Firkus found the OT winner 65 seconds into the extra frame after Denton Mateychuk drew all three Rebels defenders to one side of the ice before he slipped a pass back to Firkus, who had a wide-open net for the winner.
“We found a way to get into the game and give ourselves a chance to win. Battling back from a two-goal deficit and we had a timely kill where it could have been 3-0. I like the character of the team to be able to battle,” said Rebels coach Steve Konowalchuk.
“We made some mistakes at the start of the game and in the third that were uncharacteristic of us. You aren’t going to play perfect all the time, but you have to clean that up. Overall, I don’t think it was a lack of effort. A little bit of not being ready at the start and maybe not as sharp throughout the game.”
Still, the Rebels finished the week with seven of a possible eight points and ended 2021 with a 22-9-2-1 record.
“I like their attitude to come and work. It’s been a good group to coach,” said Konowalchuk.
“They want to learn and they want to work and they want to have success. It’s fun that way. They’ve worked hard. They’re all on board with the game plan… they work and they have skill to go with it. It’s been a good first half but in junior hockey, you have to keep improving… You can’t be satisfied, you gotta keep pushing.”
Red Deer trailed 1-0 after 20 minutes Friday before Eric Alarie made it 2-0 1:59 into the second.
The Rebels finally started to push back midway through the frame and Jace Isley was finally able to cut the deficit. After a faceoff win from Josh Medernach, in his first game of the season, Isley jumped on the loose puck and from just outside the faceoff circle beat Jackson Unger.
On the power play with 4:40 left in the frame, a rare goal from defenceman Christoffer Sedoff tied the game. Sedoff only had one goal prior to Friday’s game but is among the league leaders in assists with 27. He looked like a sniper on this play, beating Unger high blocker after another strong faceoff win.
“We just couldn’t get momentum. A couple of penalties didn’t help. Some puck decisions where we didn’t want to go play north and then you don’t spend your shift in the offensive zone,” Konowalchuk said.
Robert Baco restored the Moose Jaw lead 5:52 into the second but 20-year-old Blake Stevenson helped the Rebels clawback on a 2-on-1 less than three minutes later.
The Rebels were outshot 11-3 in the final frame and 1-0 in overtime.
Rebels 15-year-old netminder Chase Wutzke was solid again in his third straight appearance, with 26 saves on 30 shots. Unger finished with 19 saves for the Warriors.
Red Deer was 1-for-4 on the power play while the Warriors failed to convert on all four man-advantage chances.
The Rebels will have another brief break, as their next contest is Jan. 7, when they return home to the Centrium to take on the Edmonton Oil Kings.