Following Wednesday night’s tight game against the Swift Current Bronocs, you couldn’t really blame the Rebels for having an off night. It was the final game before the Western Hockey League’s trade deadline, and the players were rightfully nervous. The Rebels have played well this season but some thought maybe there was something missing. They still eked out a win against a struggling Broncos team.
According to general manager and head coach Brent Sutter, there wasn’t anything missing, as the Rebels had decided against making any more changes to the roster and keeping the chemistry where it needed to be.
Friday night, it was expected there would be a different team on the ice, one full of confidence and skill. One that was challenging for the top spot in the central division. And with 29 games to go, the Rebels were that team.
The Rebels started Ethan Anders between the pipes, Sutter had given him the last two games off.
Brandon countered with Czech Republic native Jiri Patera.
An early power play for the Rebels resulted in the first lead of the game going to Red Deer. A backdoor pass from Oleg Zaytsev to a streaking Cameron Hausinger made it 1-0. Hausinger was wide open and all he needed to do was tip the pass beyond the red line. Patera didn’t have a chance to make the save.
But it wouldn’t take long for the Wheat Kings to register their first goal of the night. A very similar play just one minute and seventeen seconds later found the back of the Rebels net. Stelio Mattheos found a streaking Ben McCartney and the pass was tipped behind Anders. It was McCartney’s 12th goal of the season.
That’s how the two teams headed down the tunnel. Both teams had reason to be happy with the opening period. The shots were pretty close at 10-9 for the Rebels.
It was the second period that the Wheat Kings would not be happy about.
An early penalty to Ethan Sakowich could have turned disastrous for the Rebels but the penalty killers did not allow a single shot to get through to Anders. The Rebels had two good chances of their own on the penalty kill but did not convert. They didn’t need to.
With nearly eight minutes gone in the second period, Alex Morozoff hit pay dirt after some hard work from Brett Davis. The two Rebels ended up all alone on the top of the crease and Davis’ pass was perfectly placed to Morozoff and he just shoveled it beyond Patera.
The Rebels extended their lead just one minute and three seconds later. More hard work from the Rebels attackers created the scoring chance. Reese Johnson dug a puck out from a scrum near Patera and made a pass through the pile to Chris Douglas who had sailed into the slot area. Again Patera had no chance to make the save as Douglas was wide open and one-timed the Johnson pass.
Late in the second period the Wheat Kings found themselves in some penalty trouble. McCartney was tagged with a double minor for slew-footing and while his team was killing off the second penalty, Ty Thorpe was sent off for tripping.
One minute and five seconds of five-on-three did not result in a goal but one came for the Rebels shortly after. Brett Davis scored the Rebels second power play goal of the night on a tired Wheat Kings side. With the Rebels working the puck around with the man-advantage, Davis just walked off the half wall with the puck and wristed a shot through traffic and hit the mesh behind Patera.
At this point, it looked like Red Deer might run away with this game but the Wheat Kings had other ideas.
The puck was dropped following the fourth Red Deer goal and Brandon walked right into the Rebels zone and made it 4-2. With the announcement of Davis’ goal wrapping up, Luka Burzan drove behind the Rebel net. He found a wide open Mattheos who just blasted the puck through Anders. It was Mattheos’ 27th goal of the season.
The Rebels were all smiles heading down the tunnel after an excellent period of hockey on the road. The Wheat Kings were looking for answers as they headed to the locker room after 40 minutes. Red Deer had out shot Brandon 15-3 in the middle frame.
They did not find answers. Red Deer marched out of the gate and scored at 1:01 of the third period to extend their lead. Hausinger scored his second of the night, his 13th of the year. The pair of Hausinger and Zak Smith had a two-on-one into the Wheat Kings end of the ice. Hausinger carried the puck in and kept it until he found an opening on Patera. He made no mistake and the lead was three for the team in their road black uniforms.
The Wheat Kings did not roll over though. With eight and a half minutes ticked off the clock, Zach Wytinck charged the Rebels net and made a shot. Anders could not control the rebound and Mattheos was there for his second of the night. His goal moved him into seventh overall for goals in the WHL with his 28th.
Despite pulling the goalie with two minutes and 38 seconds to go in the game, the Wheat Kings could only muster a few scoring chances, all denied by Anders.
The final in this one was Red Deer 5 Brandon 3. The final shots on net were 31-25 in favour of the Rebels.
Rebel Yell… The three stars were Brett Davis, Stellio Mattheos and Cameron Hausinger. Brandon Hagel picked up an assist in this game to extend his point streak to 7 games (2G, 8A). It is his second seven game point streak this season. Red Deer was 2-for-6 on the power play, Brandon was 0-for-2. Reese Johnson was the best faceoff man for both teams at 18-of-27 (66.6%) Caiden Daley was the best Wheat King going 6-for-9 (66.6%). Red Deer heads to Regina to play the Pats on Saturday night while the Wheat Kings next action is also on Saturday, they head to Moose Jaw to take on the Warriors.