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Rebels fire three power-play goals en route to yet another road win

Erica Perreaux

Rebels 5 Hurricanes 2

LETHBRIDGE — There’s no place like home, unless you’re a member of the Red Deer Rebels, who have excelled on the road this season.

The Rebels’ 5-2 WHL triumph over the Lethbridge Hurricanes Friday at the Enmax Centre was their 24th of the season and their 14th highway victory, tying them with the Kamloops Blazers and Winnipeg Ice for top spot in that category.

“You want to be consistent in each place you play, but you don’t want to overthink things,” said head coach Steve Konowalchuk. “Sometimes it’s just the way it is.

“Sometimes on the road there are some extra nerves and urgency, or you play a little simpler, and maybe that’s part of it too. I haven’t really noticed a pattern but it is nice that we’re able to win on the road.”

The visitors jumped out to a 2-0 first-period lead on a pair of goals from Ben King, his 25th and 26th of the season, and were in control the rest of the way with the exception of a brief stretch of the middle period when the ‘Canes struck for two goals in a 68-second span.

“Our guys came with the right attitude and the mentality to do what it takes to win,” said Konowalchuk. “The guys were making sure they were making the right plays and it was nice to get the lead early.”

King opened the scoring 3:28 into the contest when Jackson van de Leest hit Jhett Larson with a long pass and the Rebels’ second-year forward then fed King, who broke in and beat netminder Jared Picklyk.

Nine minutes later, King notched his league-best 14th power play marker, his shot from the left circle catching the top corner of the net.

Red Deer upped the count to 3-0 with another man-advantage tally early in the second period. Liam Keeler, from the edge of the blue paint, finished a nifty passing play that also involved King and Arshdeep Bains.

The home side battled back, though, with Alex Thacker working out of the corner and lifting a backhand past goalie Connor Ungar, and Hayden Smith’s shot from the left circle glancing in off the skate of Tristan Zandee shortly after.

The Rebels took the momentum back later in the period as van de Leest notched his second of the season, and first as a Rebel, with a power-play blast from the point.

“The other team was back in it so that was a huge goal, for sure,” said Konowalchuk. “It was similar to the Medicine Hat game (a 5-2 Red Deer win last Saturday) where we’re moving along and all of a sudden, boom, they get two quick goals.

“Our guys stuck with it and it was nice to see that other (power play) unit get a chance and bury one (van de Leest’s goal assisted by Larson and newcomer Frantisek Formanek, his first WHL point).”

Picklyk was pulled with two minutes remaining in the game in favour of an extra attacker, but Dallon Melin sealed the deal with an empty-net goal with 1:46 left.

Ungar was extra sharp in the Rebels net, foiling Ty Nash on a two-on-oh short-handed breakaway in the first period, making a highlight-reel glove stab on Nash in the second frame and then coming up with two clutch stops in the final stanza, robbing Corson Hopwo and Tyson Laventure.

“Ungar made some huge, timely saves,” said Konowalchuk.

Ungar finished with 25 saves while Picklyk blocked 23 shots.

The Rebels are back in action Saturday versus the visiting Moose Jaw Warriors.

Notable: The Rebels were three-for-six on the power play and four-for-four on the penalty kill . . . The three stars: (1) King, who added an assist for a three-point night, (2) Ungar, and (3) ‘Canes forward Brayden Edwards, who assisted on Zandee’s goal . . . Jhett Larson had two assists to join teammates King and van de Leest (1g,1a) as multi-point players . . . Attendance was 2,476 . . . The Rebels were minus the services of top rearguard Christoffer Sedoff, who served a one-game suspension as a result of being assessed a major and game misconduct for interference in Monday’s home-ice loss to Prince Albert.

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