The key for the Red Deer Rebels through two games, clutch penalty kills.
With wind in their sails, the Rebels, sporting a 2-0 series lead, meet the Pats in Regina to continue their Western Hockey League Eastern Conference semifinal April 12 and 13.
The story of the series so far has been special teams, with a total of nine goals coming on power plays.
Through two games, the Pats have scored five goals. All five of those have come on the Pats’ 12 power plays in the series.
The power play trio of Adam Brooks, Cole Sanford and Sam Steel has combined for four goals and five assists in the first two games.
Not to belittle the Rebels power play, who have connected for four goals on nine power plays.
For the Rebels, it has been those clutch penalty kills that have been the difference in back-to-back one-goal games.
“Being able to kill the five-on-three off on Saturday and then killing the four minute five-on-four with a tie hockey game and then get a power play ourselves and score right after that (penalty expired),” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “It was a huge kill. It’s the way this series has been.”
On Saturday, it was a 48 second five-on-three after Jake DeBrusk was off for high sticking, Kayle Doetzel joined him shortly thereafter. The kill preserved the one-goal lead the Rebels had at the time.
On Sunday, Haydn Fleury was sent off for four minutes on a high-sticking double minor on Brooks. The Rebels held strong and three minutes after killing off the lengthy penalty, Adam Musil connected for the game winning goal.
Contributions from players like defenceman Josh Mahura and on Sunday DeBrusk have helped the Rebels in those key penalty kill moments. But goalie Trevor Martin has been a rock for the Rebels.
“He’s been really good, when Toth went out he stepped in and been unbelievable for us,” said Mahura. “He’s the backbone in the net and has been playing unbelievable for us and he’ll keep it going.”
Through seven playoff games, the first of his WHL career, Martin has a 0.924 save percentage and a 2.29 goals against average.
Game 3 and 4 of the series are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at the Brandt Centre in Regina. Games can be listened to on the Drive.
If necessary the series returns to Red Deer Friday night at the Centrium, with puck drop at 7 p.m.