Hurricanes 4 Rebels 1
It’s down to a best-of-one.
The Red Deer Rebels couldn’t cash in on a multitude of scoring chances through the first half of Sunday’s WHL playoff contest and their failure to score that all important second goal proved costly.
The Lethbridge Hurricanes rallied with a pair of second-period markers, then added two more in the final frame — including an empty-netter by Jadon Joseph — to pull out a 4-1 win and knot the Eastern Conference quarter-final at three games apiece before 4,070 fans at the Centrium.
Game 7 goes Tuesday in Lethbridge.
The Rebels led 1-0 after an opening period in which they carried the play to the visitors and held a 15-8 advantage in shots.
Michael Spacek buried a rebound off the end boards in the final minute of the period and the hosts continued to push the pace until Red Deer native Ryan Vandervlis pulled the ‘Canes even with a rising wrist shot from the top of the circle at 13:51 of the second frame.
“For 30 minutes we played well, but after that . . .they got that first goal and we started getting on our heels a bit and making some mistakes,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter.
“They’re a good team and they capitalized on the mistakes, then we took some penalties that hurt us.”
Alec Baer potted the eventual winner just over four minutes after taking a feed from Egor Babenko and the Hurricanes never looked back.
The Rebels were then assessed an extra minor following a goalmouth scrum late in the second period and Lethbridge captain Tyler Wong connected on the power play just 23 second into the third, cutting to the net and beating Rebels goalie Riley Lamb to the top far corner.
Any chances the Rebels had of mounting yet another of their patented comebacks in the series were essentially dashed when Evan Polei was assessed a checking-to-the-head major — and game misconduct — with 9:20 remaining in the game.
And so the teams will battle it out in a winner-take-all contest in a series Red Deer once led 3-1.
The Rebels will be decided underdogs Tuesday, but then, as Sutter noted, his squad wasn’t expected to extend the series to the limit.
“Every one of you guys (media members) standing here, you didn’t have us in this situation,” he said. “You thought the Lethbridge Hurricanes would beat the Red Deer Rebels 4-0 because they had 20 some more points in the standings, but our kids have played hard in this series. Trust me, that team has been sweating it for the last week because they were supposed to beat us four games straight.
“So at the start of the series if you said we’d get to play Game 7 against this team in their building, we’d take it. That’s the situation we’re in. We were the opponents they wanted to play, they got us and we’ve taken it to Game 7. That’s the way it is.”
Sutter said he won’t have to deliver a pregame speech to motivate his troops Tuesday.
“We know where we’re at, we know we have a young team. We have a very young defence and you’ve seen in this series we’ve made some youth mistakes that have cost us,” said the Rebels boss.
“At the end of the day everything we’ve done here has been a great experience for these kids and Game 7 will be a great experience. Let’s just see what happens. You never know. They’ll be ready to play Game 7 and so will we.”
Notable: The Rebels will be minus the services of Polei for the deciding game if the big forward is assessed a suspension for his third-period major . . . ‘Canes netminder Stuart Skinner made 33 saves, two more than Lamb . . . The visitors were one-for-five on the power play; the Rebels zero-for-two . . . Reese Johnson, who has undergone two shoulder surgeries over the past two season played his second game for the Rebels since preseason play last September, skating on a line with Spacek and Brandon Hagel. “He’s been fine. There’s nothing fancy in his game, nothing spectacular, but he’s been steady,” said Sutter. “When you really think about it, he’s been out of hockey for probably about 15 months, he hadn’t played a regular-season or playoff game in that time. It’s good to get him back in the lineup and put him in a situation where he can get going. When the bottom half of your lineup is not producing offensively you might as well change things up. He’s handled it well.”
Hurricanes 4 Rebels 1