Photo by Rob Wallator/CHL

Photo by Rob Wallator/CHL

Statement game for Rebels as they prove they belong in Memorial Cup

Down two goals early in the first period, the Red Deer Rebels stared down a repeat of how they opened the tournament.

Rebels 5 Huskies 2

Down two goals early in the first period, the Red Deer Rebels stared down a repeat of how they opened the tournament.

The high-flying Rouyn-Noranda Huskies jumped to the early lead on the strength of a 2-on-1 break and a rocket shot from Timo Meier that fooled Rebels goalie Rylan Toth.

Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter called a timeout to calm his team down.

“I told them I loved them,” Sutter said with a smirk and a chuckle in the post-game press conference. “I told them that if they go out and win the game, I’ll love them even more.

“We just had to get back to playing like we can play and not letting the emotion of what’s going on in the game be a negative impact for us.”

Silent in the first game, the Red Deer Rebels offence responded Sunday as they exploded for five unanswered goals. They cruised to a 5-2 win over the Huskies and have earned a spot in the MasterCard Memorial Cup playoffs, at worst a spot in the tiebreaker.

Sutter pointed to Evan Polei’s goal at 11:57 of the first period as the spark that charged the Rebels.

Polei cut the Huskies lead in half with a wrist shot that beat Huskies goalie Chase Marchand’s blocker. Rebels centre Conner Bleackley, in his second game since missing all of playoffs with a wrist injury, got his first point since March 17 as he fed Polei, who was sitting alone in the blocker-side faceoff circle cross ice to set up the goal.

From there, the Rebels top line of Adam Helewka, Jake DeBrusk and Luke Philp rolled and the Rebels scored four more goals in the win.

“Brent made a couple comments that really helped us out and made us change our game,” said Helewka.

“The two players I played with are great players. They see the ice well and they work hard. We just tried to get the chemistry going and it made it easy for me.”

Philp, Helewka and DeBrusk were supported by a top defensive pairing of Haydn Fleury and Kayle Doetzel who Sutter said played much better.

“They controlled the pace and had the puck,” said Sutter. “They’re offensive type guys and they need to have the puck on their stick to make plays. They were really intelligent with the puck and their puck possession ratio was very good and they did a good job in their own zone, they go the puck and got going as quick as they could and attacked offensively.”

In the third period the goalies took over. Rebels goalie Rylan Toth, after making several key saves in the second period, stopped Huskies forward Alexandre Fortin with left pad save as Toth pushed across the crease to stop the breakaway attempt.

The action moved quickly down to the other end of the ice and DeBrusk fed a streaking Philp who’s wrist shot was gloved by the quick Marchand, keeping it a 4-2 Rebels lead.

The Huskie’s second goal, a 2-on-1 break that Julien Nantel kept the whole way and beat Toth five-hole. The Red Deer netminder wanted that one back.

“I was really disappointed letting that one in, especially at that time when it was 1-0 at such a crucial moment,” said Toth. “The biggest thing you can do is forget about it. I refocused and thought ‘everybody makes mistakes here and there,’ that was mine for the period.”

Not one for making excuses, Huskies head coach Gilles Bouchard said the back-to-back games did impact their game on Sunday.

“First period was OK, but after that we watched them,” said Bouchard. “These kinds of game can arise so we have to learn about the situation. It’s a learning process for the players and they have to learn about this.

“Tomorrow is off for the guys and we have to rest and get ready for Tuesday’s game.”

The Rebels and Huskies now both have a 1-1-0-0 record in the tournament and are in a three-way tie for first.

The Rebels also clinched a berth in at least the tiebreaker game, which is scheduled for Thursday but depending on the outcome of the rest of the round robing may not necessarily occur.

Red Deer will close out its round robin play against its Western Hockey League compatriots, the Brandon Wheat Kings. The Wheat Kings knocked the Rebels out of the WHL Eastern Conference Final in five games. That game is scheduled for Wednesday, puck drops at 6 p.m. at the Centrium.

Monday, the Wheat Kings face the Ontario Hockey League champion London Knights at the Centrium. The game starts at 6 p.m.

Red Deer Advocate three stars:

1 — Jake DeBrusk: A goal and two assists after being one of the players called out after the opening night loss to the Knights. DeBrusk responded by driving the net and creating goal scoring chances.

2 — Adam Helewka: Two goals and an assist, just as good as DeBrusk and made the impact came to Red Deer for. Many shots and chances fuelled his success, not to mention his stick handling.

3 — Haydn Fleury: Had a goal, but the more important part was his much improved discipline. Many other Rebels could have been stars Sunday night including Rylan Toth and Evan Polei.

Notes: Rebels scratches included G Dawson Weatherill, D Carson Sass, F Austin Pratt, F Reese Johnson, F Akash Bains, D Ethan Sakowich, D Austin Shmoorkoff and F Taden Rattie … Huskies scratches included F Anthony Wojcik, F Rafael Harvey Pinard and D Zachary Lauzon … Greer got a minor and a 10-minute misconduct for embellishment on a play behind the Rebels net … Attendance was 7,377.