Rebels 6 Broncos 2
The Red Deer Rebels were superior to the Swift Current Broncos in all three zones on Saturday night, leading to a predictable result.
The Rebels, led by the newly-minted line of Brandon Hagel and newcomers Brett Davis and Cam Hausinger, rolled over the Broncos 6-2 before a crowd of 4,125 at the Centrium.
The terrific trio combined for 11 points as the Rebels dominated the last half of the game with an aggressive forecheck and stout defensive play.
“It’s funny, what I liked most about tonight’s game was not the fact we scored six goals, but just how we defended and how we played in our own zone,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “Our neutral zone game was tighter, our turnovers were minimal and I thought we did a really good job of forechecking.
“We talked about some things today, about how certain guys have to play for us and I thought they took a step the right way, so that’s a good thing.”
Josh Tarzwell and Hagel, with his 20th of the season staked to the hosts to a 2-0 lead on similar plays , beating Broncos netminder Joel Hofer high to the glove side.
Alec Zawatsky cut the deficit to one with a power play marker late in the opening frame, his shot from the right circle sailing over a partially screened Rebels goaltender Ethan Anders.
The Rebels pulled away for good in the middle period as Hausinger tallied twice — at 5:09 and 12:48 — taking a drop pass from Brett Davis just inside the blueline and connecting from the top of the right circle, then scoring from a scramble during a Red Deer power play.
Davis batted a rebound past Hofer early in the final frame and after Matthew Culling whipped a shot under Anders’ glove, Hagel rounded out the scoring by picking the far corner from his off wing with three minutes remaining.
“The thing about that line is they’re skilled, they have some grease and they’re smart players,” said Sutter of his productive trio.
The Rebels boss was also impressed with another recently-formed line of Reese Johnson, Tarzwell and Jeff de Wit.
“Johny’s line with Tarz and Jeff, they have to play a big game, a heavy game, and this was the best game the three of them have played together,” he said.
“And the other two lines did what we needed, our defence was solid and Andy made some saves. I think he’d probably like the second one back, but that’s the way it is.”
The Rebels, after a somewhat cautious start, outshot their guests 33-11 over the final 40 minutes, including 20-4 in the third period.
“It was an awesome win, in all aspects of our game tonight we were good,” said Davis. “We were good in the O zone, the D zone and the neutral zone too.”
The 19-year-old forward, who along with Hausinger was acquired from the Kootenay Ice on Nov. 30, was held pointless in his first game with the Rebels but has racked up eight, including a trio of goals, in the three games since.
“It’s been nice. Obviously I have to give credit to some of my teammates,” he said. “The last couple of games we’ve been playing some good hockey and hopefully we can keep that going into the Christmas break.”
Skating alongside Hausinger and Hagel has been a treat for the Oakbank, Man., native.
“I played in Kootenay with Hausey. We’re pretty good together, then you throw a guy like Hages on our line and good things are going to happen,” said Davis. “We had good chemistry tonight and hopefully we can keep that going.”
The Rebels conclude the pre-Christmas portion of their schedule with two home games next week — on Tuesday versus the Kamloops Blazers and on Friday against the Medicine Hat Tigers.
With Friday’s 4-3 shootout victory over the visiting Regina Pats that kicked off a four-game homestand before the Christmas break, the WHL Central Division leading Rebels will take a two-game winning streak into Tuesday’s contest.
“We’ve talked about what we want to accomplish before Christmas time,” said Sutter. “We have two more games left, then the kids get a long break. These first two games were huge in making sure we got points in them.”
Notable: Anders took a second-period goal away from Ian Briscoe when he dragged the puck off the goal line at the last second, and finished with 21 saves. Hofer turned aside 34 shots and absolutely robbed Zak Smith with a sliding pad save in the third period . . . Selected as the game’s three stars were Hagel (2g,2a), Davis (1-3) and Hausinger (2-1).