Hitmen 6 Rebels 2
The Calgary Hitmen stormed out of the starting gate Saturday at the Centrium and the rest — as they say —is history.
The visitors made the most of their scoring opportunities, striking for four unanswered goals en route to a 6-2 Western Hockey League win over the Red Deer Rebels before a recorded gathering of 5,787.
“We had some jump in the first period, had a few chances and capitalized. We got some breaks and that was the difference,” said Hitmen head coach Mike Williamson.
The Hitmen opened the scoring 2:40 into the contest when Trevor Cheek — from the right faceoff circle — put a backhand past Rebels starting goalie Deven Dubyk.
From there, Cody Sylvester cashed a rebound at 8:11 and Danny Gayle connected off a two-on-break four minutes later.
The third goal spelled the end for Dubyk.
Bolton Pouliot came on in relief but gave up a goal on the first shot he faced just 24 seconds later as Jimmy Bubnick potted his 23rd of the season.
“When you dig yourself a hole like that it’s pretty tough to come back,” said Rebels GM/head coach Jesse Wallin.
“We just made too many mistakes in the first period.
“On the first two goals we were just too soft on the puck and the next two goals were just due to mental errors.”
The absence of veteran defenceman Aaron Borejko, who suffered a suspected concussion after being nailed into the boards in Friday’s 3-2 loss at Edmonton, didn’t help the Rebels cause. Borejko is apparently out long term, adding to Red Deer’s unbelievable run of back-luck injuries this season.
“Young (Stephen) Hak and (Cody) Thiel . . . we’ve asked them to play a lot of minutes the last few nights,” said Wallin, in reference to the rookie rearguards.
“It caught up to them a bit tonight. They were trying hard but they made some mental mistakes that you see when guys are over-played a bit. They’ve had to play 30 minutes a night the last two games.”
The Rebels stormed back in the middle stanza as John Persson beat Calgary netminder Chris Driedger with a backhand from the edge of the crease at 1:32 with Red Deer enjoying a two-man advantage, and Alex Petrovic scored on a point shot at 15:34 that was tipped past Driedger by a Hitmen defender.
Red Deer dominated the rest of the period but couldn’t cash in, and despite being outshot 11-5 in the final frame, the visitors got a goal from Cheek at 5:04 and an empty-net, short-handed marker from Bubnick at 17:59.
Driedger finished with 26 saves, while Dubyk and Pouliot combined for 18 saves at the other end.
“I liked the way we battled in the second period,” said Wallin. “We got ourselves back in the hockey game and didn’t show any quit, which was good to see.
“We kept pushing throughout but the first period hurt us, for sure.”
The Rebels are idle until Wednesday when they host the Prince Albert Raiders at 7 p.m.