Rebels 4 Cougars 2
PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. — There’s nothing as satisfying as a pair of wins to close out an adventurous and gruelling road trip, especially after dropping the first three outings.
The Red Deer Rebels shrugged off a sluggish opening period Monday afternoon, then cranked it up over the final 40 minutes en route to a 4-2 WHL win over the Prince George Cougars before a crowd of 5,971 at the CN Centre.
Red Deer won 3-2 at Kelowna on Saturday following losses at Victoria, Vancouver and Kamloops.
“Our first period was just OK,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter, whose club was outshot 15-5 over the first 20 minutes. “But our last two periods were really good.”
Josh Tarzwell, with his team-leading 27th of the season, opened the scoring 10:39 into the contest following a nifty goalmouth feed from Jaxsen Wiebe.
The Cougars, however, responded just 67 seconds later when Jonny Hooker, from the bottom of the right circle, bounced a shot off the shoulder of Rebels goaltender Byron Fancy.
The hosts took a 2-1 lead at 7:40 of the middle stanza as Ethan Browne scored on a rebound of a redirect, but Ethan Rowland answered for the Rebels roughly five minutes later. Dallon Melin broke in from the left wing and directed a shot at Gauthier, who was down and out when Rowland cashed the rebound.
Chris Douglas notched the eventual winner at 15:12, scoring his 11th of the season on a backhand from the low slot. Rebels captain Ethan Sakowich started the play when he moved in from the blueline, shifted around a Cougars defender and fired a shot on goal, leaving Douglas to sink the rebound from his knees.
Jayden Grubbe put the contest on ice with an empty-net marker with 2:55 remaining in the game.
The Rebels finished the B.C. Division jaunt with a 2-3 record that could easily have been better except for some third-period lapses.
“We very well could have, except for some letdowns in the third period, gone five-and-oh,” said Sutter.
“But we’ll take the last two games as wins and the other games where we didn’t do as well in certain situations and go from there.”
Sakowich was selected as the game’s first star, while Cougars forward Vladislav Mikhalchuk and Fancy, who turned aside 32 shots, were the second and third stars.
It was the second consecutive solid outing for Fancy, who was the winning netminder in Saturday’s triumph at Kelowna.
“Byron played well again,” said Sutter. “Andy (Ethan Anders) had a good start to the trip and Byron was good too, so they just have to build off that for sure.”
Notable: Gauthier made 23 saves for the Cougars . . . Both teams were zero-for-two on the power play . . . The Rebels are idle until Saturday when they host the Tri-City Americans to open a five-game homestand.