Rebels 4 Ice 3 (OT)
Alex Alexeyev decided to take what the Kootenay Ice gave him in the overtime period of Saturday’s WHL game at the Centrium.
The Russian defenceman cruised across the Ice blueline, skated wide and then cut sharply to the net and chipped the puck past netminder Duncan McGovern.
“Was kind of a weird goal because they just let me skate,” said the Red Deer Rebels rearguard, whose goal — his fourth of the season — at 1:15 of the three-on-three overtime frame gave the hosts a 4-3 win before 4,405 fans at the Centrium.
“But you know, overtime goals is always like really exciting and make me really happy. You can tell by my celebration,” added Alexeyev while wearing a wide grin. “It was awesome game at the end, awesome feelings.”
Fellow Russian Oleg Zaytsev notched what at least briefly looked like the winning goal with 2:21 remaining in the third period, following up on his own shot and steering a backhand past McGovern. But the Ice responded 36 seconds later when Jaeger White worked out of the corner and beat Rebels netminder Ethan Anders with a high shot.
In the end, however, it was the Rebels who celebrated on a night when several players were overworked due to a spate of penalties.
Red Deer led 1-0 after 20 minutes on Carson Sass’s first goal of the season, a power-play marker. Sass set up shop at the top of the right circle and buried a cross-ice feed from Jacob Herauf.
Brandon Hagel, coming off a four-goal performance the previous night in Edmonton, made it 2-0 with a short-handed tally early in the second period, out-legging an Ice defender to the puck and picking the top far corner from a sharp angle.
But after being fingered for three infractions in the opening period, the Rebels were assessed back-to-back minors shortly after Hagel’s goal and the Ice made them pay for their sins.
White scored from the left circle with the Ice enjoying a five-on-three advantage, and Brett Davis tied the game on the back half of the power play.
“Was a pretty tough game but first 10 minutes was pretty good, then we just take the foot from the pedal and they started shooting on our net,” said Alexeyev. “(Then) we got a couple bad penalties.
“The second period was pretty bad but in the third we just (started) getting together as a team and take our frustration away. We get together and win the game.”
Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter said the run of penalties made for a longer night for his special teams players.
“We took five minor penalties in the first 24 minutes of the game and certain guys kill and certain guys play on the power play,” he said. “Certain guys played a lot in the first 24 minutes and some guys didn’t play very much and it kind of took those guys out of the game. The other guys got a little tired.”
That being said, the Rebels boss credited the visitors for taking his club to the limit.
“Kootenay just stays with their game, they do things right,” said Sutter. “They’re a team that’s very well coached and disciplined.”
Surrendering the pair of power-play goals just 16 seconds apart seemed to drain the Rebels’ energy.
“Momentum hurts at that time and you have to get it back,” said Sutter. “We talked about staying out of the penalty box and in the first three and a half minutes of the second we already had two penalties.
“It’s tough that way, but again we stayed with it and battled. Credit to the kids, we regrouped, had a decent third and got some scoring chances. Outside of the first six to seven minutes of the game, that was definitely our best period.”
While the Ice finished two-for-six on the power play, the Rebels were one-for-five.
“In the second period, probably the last 10 minutes, we let frustration get involved. Our guys who play on the power play got frustrated because the power play wasn’t clicking,” said Sutter.
“We regrouped after the second and talked about not getting frustrated and getting our game to where we want it to be. Play 20 minutes and give ourselves a chance to win, and we found a way.
“It certainly wasn’t a perfect game by any means, it certainly wasn’t pretty. But a win is a win and two points are two points.”
Anders turned in yet another stellar effort while making 29 saves, one more than McGovern.
“Andy was outstanding, he played great for us,” said Sutter. “They directed a lot of pucks on net and Andy made some big saves. There was one in the first period specifically he was huge on, from a scramble around the net.
“Andy gives you a chance every night and that’s what you want from your goaltender.”
Notable: The Rebels improved to 7-3-1-0 and maintained their hold on first place in the Central Division, two points up on both Lethbridge and Medicine Hat . . . Alexeyev was selected as the game’s first star, with White and Herauf, who had two assists, named second and third stars . . . Red Deer returns to action Tuesday when the Calgary Hitmen visit the Centrium. The Rebels will face the Tigers Wednesday in Medicine Hat and host the Saskatoon Blades Friday. They will then play five straight games on the road before returning to the Centrium for a Nov. 16 clash with the Kelowna Rockets.