Kelsey shines as Rebels beat Blades for first time this season
Rebels 5 Blades 1
Kyle Kelsey looked like the Red Deer Rebels goaltender who stole games earlier in the season.
Kelsey, making just his second start since he suffered an injury in practice in December, was sublime Friday night at the Peavey Mart Centrium, turning aside 34 shots in a 5-1 WHL victory over the Saskatoon Blades.
“I felt good tonight. It’s been awhile since I felt good playing especially coming back from injury,” he said. “Today I felt dialled in.
“It’s like the monkey off the back, and the team played well.”
Kelsey, selected as the game’s second star, held the Blades off the scoresheet until Egor Sidorov cut to the net and stuffed the puck past the 18-year-old rookie stopper with less than six minutes remaining.
The Rebels were up 5-0 at that point and had the win firmly in their grasp,
but the goal robbed Kelsey of his second shutout of the season.
“A little bit (disappointing), especially in the last six minutes,” he said. “But it happens.”
The Rebels were super aggressive on the forecheck for pretty much the entire 60 minutes and dominated physically.
“It’s something that we’ve talked about a bit,” said Rebels head coach Steve Konowalchuk. “We’ve had some guys who usually bring it but we want to get more consistent with everybody bringing the physical play and skating.
“I think we’re a team that can skate, whether it’s all four lines and six D. We can skate and be strong on pucks, but we also want to finish checks when the opportunities are there. From the back end to all our forwards, they did that.”
Kai Uchacz, who had two goals on the night, sniped his 37th of the season to open the scoring just 3:34 into the contest, gathering the puck in the right circle, spinning around and catching the far side of the net behind Blades netminder Ethan Chadwick.
The Rebels then pulled away with three goals in the middle frame.
Uchacz circled the Saskatoon net and fed a pass into the high slot to Kalan Lind, whose low shot found the back of the net through a screen at the 12:09 mark to give the home side a two-goal lead.
Just 53 seconds later, Christoffer Sedoff’s wrist shot from the point bounced in the air and fell behind Chadwick. Sedoff was given credit for the goal but it was later changed to Dwayne Jean Jr., his fifth of the season.
Ben King then got into the act before the period was out, beating Chadwick to the far corner from the right circle. Hunter Mayo and Frantisek Formanek drew assists after combining to keep the puck inside the blueline.
Uchacz cashed his own rebound for goal No. 38 midway through the final frame before Sidorov responded for the visitors.
The Rebels’ penalty killers, with Kelsey leading the way, were impressive while erasing a second-period interference major to Carson Birnie and a double minor to Craig Armstrong that carried over into the third.
Birnie’s hit resulted in an injury to Blades forward Justin Lies, who was transported off the ice on a stretcher and taken to Red Deer Regional Hospital.
UPDATE ON JUSTIN LIES: Justin is stable and awaiting observation at Red Deer Hospital. He’s alert, in good spirits and thanks everyone for their concern and well wishes.
— Saskatoon Blades (@BladesHockey) January 28, 2023
The five-minute kill turned into three minutes when Saskatoon defenceman Spencer Shugrue was called for holding, but the Blades managed four shots on goal during their extended power play.
“To get that kill during the five minute penalty was huge . . . you draw a penalty there and that helps,” said Konowalchuk. “Kelsey made some big saves, he was solid all night.
“He was very good, that’s the kind of play we saw earlier in the year. A few different things held him back here of late, but he looked good out there. He looked like the goalie we had the first part of the year.”
Kelsey denied Jordan Keller with a glove save in the first period, and in the second robbed Jake Chaisson from in tight and then took a goal away from Brandon Lisowsky seconds later.
The Maple Ridge, BC, native also came up big in the third period, making a couple of sparking stops on Sidorov.
“I saw a lot of pucks,” said Kelsey. “Unfortunately we had to kill a lot, especially with those longer penalties . . . four minutes, five minutes.
“Those are obviously tough but we stayed strong.”
The Rebels are right back at it Saturday when the Winnipeg Ice visit the Centrium. The Ice fell 2-1 in Lethbridge Friday.
Notable: Rebels owner/president/general manager Brent Sutter was presented with the prestigious Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for outstanding community service prior to the opening faceoff . . . With Friday’s results, the Rebels moved into top spot in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of the Ice who have five games in hand . . . Saskatoon was zero-for-three on the power play, the Rebels one-for-two . . . King’s goal was his 87th as a Rebel, tying Jon Zukiwsky for seventh most in franchise history . . . The three stars: (1) Uchacz, who added an assist for a three-point night, (2) Kelsey and (3) Formanek, who recorded three helpers . . . Sedoff and Mayo also had a multi-point game with two assists each . . . Chadwick was yanked after the Rebels’ fourth goals and finished with 16 saves. Austin Elliott came on in relief and turned aside six of the seven shots he faced.