Rebels 4 Raiders 3
To this point , at least, it’s apparent that the Red Deer Rebels won’t be an easy out this season.
Just ask the Saskatoon Blades and the Prince Albert Raiders, two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference and probably the entire Western Hockey League.
After knocking off the visiting Blades 5-4 Tuesday, the Rebels gutted out a 4-3 win — their fifth in succession — over the previously undefeated Raiders before 4,035 vastly-entertained fans Saturday at the Centrium.
Captain Reese Johnson scored the winner on a highlight-reel effort with 2:16 remaining after the visitors had rallied to tie the score with two goals in a 15-second span approaching the midway point of the final period.
Johnson skated over the Prince Albert blueline, stepped around a defenceman and put a wide deke on goaltender Ian Scott.
“I wanted to use my speed there and get to the net and I was happy to put it in,” said the 20-year-old centre. “He’s a big goalie definitely and I didn’t want to shoot because he’s so good that way, so I wanted to wait him out and it worked.”
The Raiders showed why they came into the contest with a 7-0-0-0 record, directing 52 shots at Rebels netminder Ethan Anders, who was deservedly selected as first star of the game.
“You have to win ugly sometimes,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “They (Raiders) obviously have a very good hockey team, they’re an older team.
“But our young team battled and we found a way. I don’t know another way to put it. We had some good shifts, we had some bad shifts, we had some shifts that were hit and miss.
“We turned the puck over in areas you don’t want to turn pucks over, but we continued to fight and battle and scratch and claw Obviously a big goal by Johny and our goalie was outstanding. Andy played great.”
The Rebels snapped a 1-1 tie with two goals less than four minutes apart early in the third period. Arshdeep Bains beat Scott with a low shot from the left circle 41 seconds in and Chris Douglas cashed his own rebound at 4:01, following a point shot by Hunter Donohoe that bounced off the end boards.
But the Raiders stormed back with goals from Sergei Sapego at 8:03, following an unlucky turnover in the Rebels end, and Brett Leason, who, wired a shot past a screened Anders at 8:18.
“Whenever that happens us leaders on the bench have to do our best and keep everyone calm,” said Johnson. “It was still a tie game, there was nothing to panic about. We were just happy to get up and win the game.”
The Raiders opened the scoring with a mere 12 seconds left in the first period, as Aliaksel Protas knocked a bouncing puck past Anders , who had the puck deflect off his glove.
Brandon Hagel pulled the Rebels early in the second period when he went hard to the net and deflected a two-on-one pass from Jeff de Wit past Scott, setting the stage for a sizzling third period.
Another positive for the Rebels was the fact they received scoring from three lines.
“We need scoring from every line and I think every line played well and worked hard tonight,” said Johnson.
“I think everyone worked hard and that’s what we want to be — hard workers every night. We definitely have some areas we have to clean up but it’s a great win. We’re happy with that.”
Perhaps the hardest worker on the ice was Anders, who was here, there and everywhere while making 49 saves, including 21 in the third period. His diving second-period stop on Noah Gregor during the game’s only power play was nothing short of sensational.
“I was just talking to Andy, I had to go up and congratulate him on a couple unreal saves,” said Johnson. “That penalty kill one, I let it through my seam and he backed me up with an unreal glove save. I think that will be making some highlight reels. He played awesome.”
Scott turned aside 19 shots for the Raiders, his best save being an outright gem on Oleg Zaytsev in the first period.
“Credit to the kids, they didn’t give up, they stayed with it,” said Sutter. “Again, every day is like a new day for us, like a learning day, especially with all these young players. Hopefully they learned something from tonight’s game.”
Notable: Leason was named second star of the game and Johnson took third-star honours . . . With Scott on the bench in favour of an extra attacker, the Raiders found the back of the net a split second after the final buzzer sounded. It was waved off following a short discussion by the referees . . . Douglas picked up an assist to go with his goal and linemate Austin Schellenberg contributed a pair of helpers . . . The 5-2-0-0 Rebels are idle until next week when they visit the Blades and Raiders Friday and Saturday. Red Deer’s next home game is Oct. 20 versus the Kootenay Ice.