In a physical Central Division contest that took an extra frame to decide, the Rebels ultimately came out on top.
Despite a considerable amount of penalties, all five goals were scored at even strength as both penalty kills were terrific.
This low scoring contest that saw Calgary’s offense on display early and teddy bears littered on the Scotiabank Saddledome ice surface was spoiled by a grind away comeback by Red Deer.
The Hitmen opened the first frame with a quick start as Carson Focht made the Teddy Bears fly just 1:34 into the game with a beautiful deflection off a Jackson Van De Leest point shot. Orca Wiesblatt picked up a secondary assist on the Focht goal and in doing so extended his career-high point streak to six games.
The lengthy break after the teddy bear toss only provided Red Deer with the much-needed energy they were missing in the early stages of the first. The Rebels came out refreshed and immediately laid several quality shifts on the Hitmen with a very effective forecheck. The aggressive Rebels forecheck brought a physical tone to the game which was the cause for Hunter Campbell to fall awkwardly into the boards after a check from a Red Deer player. Campbell left the bench and did not return as the winger appeared to be favouring his right leg.
These shifts also began causing several Calgary defensive zone turnovers which led to Jack McNaughton having to make two significant saves in the frame. McNaughton and the Hitmen escaped the period with the one-goal lead after being out-chanced in terms of quality despite the fact that shots were only 9-to-8 in favour of the Rebels.
The second period opened with another fast start that included a lot of back and forth action.
It was just under four minutes in when a Jayden Grubbe hooking infraction allowed for Calgary to gain confidence in their play.
Despite a rather unsuccessful man advantage, the power play helped Calgary to gain momentum and the edge in possession. Calgary also limited the Rebels to just a single shot throughout the first 10 minutes of the period thus making Jack McNaughton’s job a fair bit easier. Although Red Deer struggled in these stages to generate nearly any offensive opportunities, they were doing a fine job of limiting the Hitmen to non-threatening perimeter shots while killing an Ethan Rowland penalty successfully.
With little time left in the period, the Hitmen were penalized twice themselves, which were both successfully killed with much of the credit going to Riley Stotts who blocked two back-to-back point rockets from Ethan Sakowich before clearing the puck and allowing Calgary to bring the 1-0 lead into the locker room.
The beginning of the third period was again opened with early offense just 46 seconds in when Stotts was sprung on a breakaway off a Jonas Peterek pass. Stotts went backhand to forehand and beat Byron Fancy for the two-goal cushion and a goal that only seemed fitting considering the sacrifices Stotts made late in the second.
This lead, however, did not last, as not a minute and a half later Joel Sexsmith found his way into the slot and ripped a shot past Jack McNaughton for his first career WHL goal.
It was evident by the energy both teams were playing with that a tight finish was ahead. Red Deer struck once again when a scrambling Jack McNaughton could not control a Dawson Barteaux shot that rebounded to the stick of Cameron Hausinger who slapped the puck in the yawning crease.
With the contest knotted at two, physicality once again ramped up which led to yet another injury. Mark Kastelic delivered a heavy hit to the midsection of Christoffer Sedoff who required help off the ice but did later return. The post-whistle scrums resulted in a power play for the Hitmen which the Rebels successfully killed.
The Hitmen followed this up with a successful kill of their own after Sean Tschigerl was sent off for holding.
With under a minute remaining the Rebels put a puck on net that turned into a quality scoring chance which was eventually handled by Jack McNaughton. After the whistle, a scrum ensued that led to a spirited tilt between Dakota Krebs and Zak Smith.
60 minutes, however, solved nothing as the two teams prepared for overtime. Calgary began the overtime with the majority of possession and controlled the play with speed until a fateful two-on-one rush with Cameron Hausinger and Josh Tarzwell. Tarzwell ripped a hard wrist shot that beat McNaughton and won it for the rebels almost half way into the extra frame.
The Hitmen will play at home this Friday when they host the Edmonton Oil Kings before travelling to Edmonton to face the Oil Kings on their ice.
Mark Kastelic won over 20 faceoffs for the second time this year as the overage centremen dominated in the dot going 22-for-28 on draws. Hitmen now sit five points out of the third central division playoff spot while holding a record of 14-7-3-1 and 2-0-1-0 against the Rebels. Both penalty kills were perfect as Red Deer was 5-for-5 and Calgary 3-for-3.