Kelsey sharp as Rebels blank visiting Broncos

Rob Wallator

Rebels 2 Broncos 0

The Red Deer Rebels didn’t need the luck of the Irish Friday night at the Peavey Mart Centrium.

They did, however, require a standout performance from netminder Kyle Kelsey, who posted his second consecutive WHL shutout in a 2-0 St. Patrick’s Day win over the Swift Current Broncos before 4,367 fans.

The teams meet again Saturday at the Centrium.

The Rebels scored twice in a dominant first period, then leaned on Kelsey, who faced only six shots in the opening frame but finished with 34 saves, including 20 in the third period.

“I’ve got my groove back . . . been feeling pretty good, seeing the puck,” said the Rebels rookie stopper, who blanked the Calgary Hitmen in a 9-0 victory last Saturday.

“I also think the guys played great, putting their bodies on the line, blocking shots when they had to. Overall a good game.”

The home side got the only goal they needed off the stick of Jayden Grubbe 4:37 into the contest. With the Rebels on the power play, Frantisek Formanek fed a cross-crease pass to Grubbe, who one-timed it by netminder Reid Dyck from the right circle.

Jace Isley notched his 29th of the season just over nine minutes later when he broke down the left side and fed Grubbe, who was denied by Dyck. Isley, in turn, converted the rebound while cutting to the net.

The two-goal cushion held up the rest of the way, thanks in large part to the Red Deer goaltender.

“It was a little boring in the first, but I got my fair share (of shots) in the second and the third,” said Kelsey, who stretched out to make a dazzling stick save on Connor Hvidston with five minutes remaining. “It made the game a lot more enjoyable, I was just having fun out there.

“It feels amazing for sure.”

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Rebels head coach Steve Konowalchuk was hardly surprised that the Broncos, who are battling for an Eastern Conference playoff berth, would push back over the final 40 minutes.

“They’re going to play hard, that’s what you’d expect,” he said. “They played hard, our guys battled. I thought we did what we had to do in the third period and got some big saves from Kelsey.

“I liked the way we started the game . . . some good things to take away from a game when you’re playing a team that’s obviously playing playoff hockey, playing for their lives.

“A lot of the game we matched that intensity, which is sometimes harder to do when you’re not in that situation, so a good job by our guys. But we have to regroup here and get ready for tomorrow.”

Kelsey was an obvious selection as the game’s first star.

“The last game wasn’t much of a test for him,” said Konowalchuk, in reference to the 9-0 shelling of the Hitmen. “Today he had a lot of shots. He was good, made some big saves.

“It looks to me like he has his confidence back. He’s playing some good hockey. I’m not surprised and it’s good to see that he’s playing like that. A good game from him.”

Notable: The Rebels were one-for-six on the power play and killed off all three Swift Current man advantage opportunities . . . Dyck, who was also sharp, made 29 saves . . . The Rebels were minus the services of defenceman Christoffer Sedoff and forward Kalan Lind, both day-to-day with injuries . . . The second and third stars were Formanek and Rebels rookie rearguard Quentin Bourne . . . Prior to the contest, Craig Armstrong was presented with the Rebels Rob Rae Clothiers plus/minus player of the month award for February . . . Following Saturday’s contest, Red Deer will close out the regular season next weekend with back to back meetings with the Lethbridge Hurricanes, Friday on the road and Saturday at the Centrium. The Rebels will open post-season play March 31 at home . . . With the loss, the Broncos remain two points back of the eighth-place Calgary Hitmen, who were 6-4 losers Friday in Lethbridge .

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