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Rebels’ late rally versus Hitmen results in third straight win

Photo by Candice Ward/Calgary Hitmen

Rebels 6 Hitmen 5 (OT)

CALGARY— Red Deer Rebels captain Reese Johnson sent the Calgary Hitmen to the ropes Sunday with a pair of late third-period goals and teammate Oleg Zaytsev applied the finishing blow.

With the Rebels trailing 5-3, Johnson, alone in front of Calgary goaltender Carl Stankowski, buried a pass from Dawson Barteaux at 15:42 of the third frame, then cashed a long rebound just under three minutes later with the visitors on the power play.

The Rebels wasted little time recording their third consecutive WHL win as Brandon Hagel, from the left circle, found Zaytsev in the low slot and the Russian forward beat Stankowski low to the glove side just 31 seconds into overtime.

It was, indeed, an impressive comeback for the Rebels, who posted three wins in three nights after starting the season 0-2.

“You can’t say anything negative about that, although it certainly wasn’t a position we wanted to be in,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter of his club’s late rally and third win of the season before a Scotiabank Saddledome crowd of 5,460.

“The last five minutes was the best we played all night. We were moving, skating, making plays. We gave up a lot of scoring chances tonight, a lot of shots, but we also generated some of our own.”

The Rebels were down 3-2 entering what proved to be a wild third period.

Mark Kastelic gave the hosts a two-goal cushion 8:45 into the third, beating Rebels netminder Ethan Anders through the pads from the right circle, before Jeff de Wit  with his second of the night, converted a pass from Hagel on a back-door play just 12 seconds later.

Hitmen forward Carson Focht capped a dizzying three-goals-in-an-under-two-minute span when he batted a bouncing puck past Anders at 10:04, setting the stage for Johnson’s late markers and Zaytsev’s extra-time winner.

“We got that goal right away when they made it 5-3 and then we scored again and that really kicked us into gear,” said Sutter. “In overtime we controlled the puck and capitalized on our chance.

“We had three skilled players out there with Hagel, Zaytsev and Barts (Barteaux, who also assisted on the winner and had four helpers in the contest).”

Josh Prokop gave the Hitmen a 1-0 lead after one period before Hagel drew the Rebels even five minutes into the second frame, cashing a power-play rebound.

Kastelic notched his first of two on the evening on a short-handed breakaway 74 seconds later before de Wit scored on an odd man break at 12:12.

Zach Huber made it 3-2 for the hosts late in the second period.

Neither of the goaltenders could be blamed for the offensive outburst, with both coming up with a series of big-time stops.

Anders was credited with 44 saves, although Stankowski, who finished with 24 blocks,faced as many A-1 chances as his Red Deer counterpart and was particularly sharp in the second period.

“There was certainly a lot of quality scoring chances on both sides,” said Sutter. “You get that when you play three in three and both teams had to do that this weekend.

“Both teams would have liked to be tighter defensively but there are often mistakes in a game like this because both teams are tired.”

Both teams were weary, but the Rebels found the extra step.

“it was a good weekend. Six points in three in three is a good weekend,” said Sutter.

The Rebels return to action Tuesday when they host the Saskatoon Blades.

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