By DANNY RODE
BRANDON, Man. – The Red Deer Rebels have their sights set on finishing first in the Western Hockey League’s Central Division.
As a result they left Tuesday for a three-game road trip in the Eastern Division looking to remain in that four-team battle as they were facing three teams below them in the standings.
So far so good.
The Rebels used a dominant second period to down the Brandon Wheat Kings 5-3 before 3,869 fans at the Westoba Place Friday.
The win coupled with a 3-2 victory over Swift Current Wednesday, left the Rebels tied with the Edmonton Oil Kings with 51 points, one back of the Lethbridge Hurricanes and two ahead of the Medicine Hat Tigers.
The Rebels have three games in hand on Edmonton, one on Lethbridge and two on Medicine Hat.
“This time of the year all points are important,” said Rebels assistant coach Ryan Colville. “So far it’s four of four on the trip and it would be nice to finish it off right tomorrow (in Regina), although it will be three games in four days and with the travel.”
The Rebels and Wheat Kings battled through an even opening period with Cameron Hausinger connecting for Red Deer on the power play at 8:03 and Ben McCartney replying for Brandon at 9:20. The shots were 10-9 for Red Deer, who found their legs in the room between periods.
Alex Morozoff at 7:52, Chris Douglas at 8:55 and Brett Davis on the power play at 17:08 gave the Rebels a 4-1 lead before Stelios Mattheos scored the first of his two at 17:23.
The visitors held a 15-3 edge in shots in the middle stanza.
“We played well all game, but that second period we got on top of them in their zone and didn’t give them a chance to create anything,” said Colville. “We kept to the game plan, getting the pucks down low with lots of zone time.
“They’re a team that can cause problems if you let them. They have size and skill up front and are hard to contain when they’re in your zone.”
Colville knew that the Wheat Kings wouldn’t lay down in the final 20 minutes.
“We knew we had to continue to play like we did in the second, but we played a bit too much in our end. As a group we need to do a better job of protecting the lead, but still overall it was a good effort.”
Brandon held a 13-6 edge in shots in the final frame, but the teams split a pair of goals. Hausinger with his 14th at 1:01 and Mattheos with his 28th at 8:34.
Ethan Anders was back in goal after two straight starts by Byron Fancy and played a solid game, finishing with 22 saves.
“I thought he did a good job,” said Colville. “The second period was tough on him as he went long stretches without anything to do. In the third he was tested and came up with a couple huge saves, especially when they pulled their goaltender late.
“It was good for him to get back in and start building some momentum.”
ICE CHIPS – Davis added three assists for a four-point night and was named the first star. Mattheos was second and Hausinger third … Red Deer was two-for-six on the power play and two-for-two on the penalty kill … The Rebels face the Pats Saturday at 6 p.m. MST then clash with Lethbridge in a home-and-home series next weekend – Friday on the road and Saturday at the Centrium.