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Rebels shrug off slow start, excel over final 40 minutes in win over Warriors

Photos by Rob Wallator

Rebels 5 Warriors 2

The Red Deer Rebels didn’t turn in the proverbial 60-minute performance Wednesday at the Centrium, but 40 minutes was more than enough.

The home squad ruled the final two periods en route to a 5-2 WHL win over the Moose Jaw Warriors in front of a recorded audience of 3,168.

“The last two periods we had our feet moving and got going,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter.

“The first period we weren’t moving our feet and had a lot of turnovers, but we settled down and got playing in the second and I thought the third period perhaps could have been our best third period we’ve had all year.”

The Rebels were outshot 14-6 in the opening frame with each team connecting once.

Chris Douglas opened the scoring for Red Deer when he one-timed a centering pass from Ben King past Warriors netminder Adam Evanoff just 58 seconds into the contest.

Owen Hardy pulled the visitors even with six seconds remaining in the period, his pass from behind the net glancing in off goalie Byron Fancy.

From there, the Rebels carried the play and created a large amount of Grade-A scoring chances.

Defenceman Ethan Sakowich, selected as the game’s first star, gave the Rebels a lead they would not relinquish when he scored off a rush 4:21 into the middle period, skating into the right circle and wiring a shot into the back of the net.

It was his seventh goal of the season and second in the last three games.

“I have to keep my eyes closed because I haven’t been looking at the net too much,” he joked. “I haven’t been thinking about it too much, they’ve just been going in for me. 

“Hopefully that luck stays with me.”

Arshdeep Bains was credited with his sixth of the season — on a power play — just over three minutes later when a point shot by Dawson Barteaux glanced off a Warriors defenceman and then off the Red Deer forward.

Brett Davis notched Red Deer’s fourth goal with 2:36 remaining in the contest, moving the puck ahead directly from a faceoff in the Moose Jaw zone and depositing a wrap-around.

Hardy potted his second of the evening less than a minute later with a one-timer of a cross-crease feed by Brayden Tracey, but Josh Tarzwell sealed the deal with an empty-net marker.

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The Rebels defence, with Sakowich and Barteaux — who picked up two assists — leading the way, was impressively solid and stingy over the final two periods.

“I thought for the most part our ‘D’ played really well,” said Sutter. “When we’re good is when we’re moving pucks up the ice and getting up and joining the rush.

“Our gap control tonight was really good. We didn’t give up much space coming through the neutral zone.”

Fancy was also stellar while turning aside 30 shots.

“Byron was really good, I thought he played well for us,” said Sutter. “It was kind of a carry-over from the way he played the previous five periods. He was playing with confidence and he’s looking big in net. He’s making saves, he’s seeing the puck real well right now.”

Sakowich had pretty much the same assessment of the 18-year-old goaltender, who made his second consecutive start with Ethan Anders out with an injury.

“He was awesome. The last couple of games he’s really the reason we got those extra points,” said the veteran defender, referring also to Sunday’s 3-2 overtime win in Calgary.

“I know he was struggling a bit awhile back but it’s really good for us and for his confidence that he’s playing well again because we really need him.”

Wednesday’s victory was much deserved considering the Rebels came up short in games versus Swift Current and Regina last week despite outplaying both teams.

“It was a good team win for us,” said Sakowich. “We didn’t come out very strong in the first period. We talked about it after the first and regrouped and I was really happy with our second. And then that third period was probably the best third we’ve played all year, I think.”

Notable: The Rebels swept the three-star selections, with Fancy and Douglas getting the second and third star nods . . . Evanoff kept the score somewhat respectable with a 28-save outing, many of which were of the difficult variety . . . The Rebels were one-for-four on the power play and were a perfect five-for-five on the penalty kill . . . Prior to the game, Bains was presented with the Mitchell and Jewell Award as Red Deer’s player of the month for November . . . The Rebels were scheduled to practise Thursday morning before departing on a two-game trip. Red Deer is in Moose Jaw Friday and Regina 24 hours later.

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