By DANNY RODE
SWIFT CURRENT, Sask. – Getting production out of their fourth line left the Red Deer Rebels coaching staff all smiles.
Winger Zak Smith broke a 2-2 tie in the third period giving the Rebels a 3-2 victory over the Swift Current Broncos in Western Hockey League action before 2,390 fans at the Innovation Credit Union I-Plex Wednesday.
Smith grabbed an Alex Alexeyev rebound and slipped it past Broncos netminder Isaac Poulter at 13:02 for his eighth of the season.
Smith’s linemate Dallon Melin also picked up an assist on the play creating a turnover in the Swift Current end and feeding the puck to Alexeyev on the left point.
“The fourth line had a great game overall,” said Rebels assistant coach Ryan Colville. “The majority of their shifts were played in the Swift Current zone.
“They have two big wingers and a quick, learning centre in (former defenceman) Chase Leslie and they did a good job of playing in a straight line. They were on the puck quick and didn’t give their defence a lot of time and created turnovers.”
The Leslie line wasn’t the only unit to draw praise from Colville.
“The (Reese) Johnson line played the same way. They were on the puck, kept things simple and put pressure on their defence.”
It was a big win for the Rebels, who went into the game as heavy favourites as they’re battling for top spot in the Central Division while the Broncos are last in the East.
Still, backed by solid goaltending and some hard work the Broncos kept things close.
“I thought we played well and controlled most of the game,” said Colville. “But they hung around. They did a good job of clogging up the middle in front of their net and Poulter played well.”
Poulter finished with 34 saves and while Red Deer’s rookie netminder, Byron Fancy, faced only 23 shots he was equally as solid.
“He made the saves he needed to,” said Colville. “It was a tough game in that there were stretches of five or six minutes when he’d have nothing to do then they’d have a flurry of shots.”
Fancy was starting his second straight game and lowered his goals-against-average to 2.96 and left his save percentage at .906.
“He’s getting a chance to play more and you can see it in his confidence,” added Colville. “He’s a young goaltender and getting a chance and having success is huge.”
Carter Chorney opened the scoring for the Broncos just 1:56 into the game with Red Deer’s Dawson Bearteaux notching his fifth goal of the season on the power play at 9:19.
Brandon Hagel scored his 23rd at 8:15 of the middle stanza with Joona Kiviniemi evening the count at 8:15 of the third period.
The Rebels showed a lot of discipline as they opened a three-game road trip, taking just two minor penalties and killing off both. Meanwhile they were one-for-four on the power play.
The Rebels are in Brandon Friday and Regina Saturday.
“This is a big trip for us as our division is so close,” said Colville. “Every game is important.”
The win left the Rebels with a 23-13-2-1 record and in a tie for second in the Central Division with the Edmonton Oil Kings. The Rebels do have three games in hand on. They sit three points back of Lethbridge.
ICE CHIPS – Former Rebel goaltender Riley Lamb, 20, signed with the Broncos after they traded starter Joel Hofer to Portland … Lamb played two years with the Rebels. This year he was with the Weyburn Red Wings before being traded to the Yorkton Terriers Jan. 2 … The WHL trade deadline is Thursday at 3 p.m. MST. … Smith was the game’s first star with Poulter second and Kiviniemi third.