Warriors 5 Rebels 4
Besides the Moose Jaw Warriors, the winners in Saturday’s WHL game at the Peavey Mart Centrium were the fans.
The recorded gathering of 2,697 watched a high speed contest that could have gone either way, but ended with the visitors clinging to a 5-4 lead.
“It was a good fast game with good pace,” said Rebels head coach Steve Konowalchuk. “They have some speed on the back end and some skill. I thought it was a good hockey game.”
The Rebels skated stride for stride with their guests and nearly sent the game to overtime with a big push during the final minute.
After Ryder Korczak notched an empty-net goal for the Warriors at 18:38 of the third period, Liam Keeler pulled the Rebels to within one with 22 seconds left. The Rebels pressed with a passion as the clock wound down but couldn’t find the back of the net.
“I thought our guys battled hard, they played hard,” said Konowalchuk. “I’m sure there’s nobody happy in that locker room. We have a competitive group of guys and it hurts when they lose.
“But they played hard and they came with a purpose. You don’t always get the result you want.”
The goals came fast and furious early in the contest. Rebels top sniper Ben King opened the scoring, taking a pass from Arshdeep Bains and dragging the puck past a Warriors rearguard before beating netminder Jackson Unger.
With King off for roughing, Denton Mateychuk pulled the visitors even less than a minute later, converting a centering pass from Jagger Firkus.
Jace Isley restored Red Deer’s lead in short order, jumping on a turnover created by Keeler and catching the far top corner of the net from the right circle. But Warriors defenceman Daemon Hunt responded with another man advantage marker just past the midway point of the opening frame, moving down from the point and burying a corner feed from Korczak.
“A couple quick goals on our penalty kill early . . . ended up being the difference,” said Konowalchuk.
The Warriors grabbed their first lead of the night 4:50 into the middle frame when Firkus took advantage of a Rebels turnover in the neutral zone, and while using defenceman Kyle Masters as a screen, beat netminder Connor Ungar through the pads.
King replied for the home side just over two minutes later, converting a behind-the-net pass from Bains, who relayed a corner feed from Jhett Larson.
“It goes into the third period and one team’s going to score,” said Konowalchuk. “They end up getting the goal and going ahead.”
The Rebels bench boss was referring to Moose Jaw’s 4-3 goal, Cordel Larson’s eighth of the season from the edge of the crease at the 3:29 mark.
The teams played even up from there and it appeared Korczak’s empty-netter had pretty much sealed the deal before the Rebels pulled to within one and then pushed for the tying goal.
“Both teams played hard. That’s how we have to play and we’ll win our share of those too. We have in the first part of the year,” said Konowalchuk, whose troops were coming off a 5-2 win Friday in Lethbridge.
“The big thing is you have to keep up that level of compete and that mental preparation that we had last night. There are always things to improve on and we’ll keep working.
“The first thing we ask is you come out and compete and compete with the game plan we want you to and we believe in, and our guys did that tonight.”
Notable: Ungar made 17 saves while Unger stopped 24 shots at the other end . . . The Warriors were two-for-six on the power play, the Rebels zero-for-two . . . The three stars: (1) Mateychuk, (2) King and (3) Hunt . . . Bains picked up three assists to boost his team-high points total to 52 (18g, 34a) . . . The Rebels are in Swift Current Tuesday to face the Broncos, then return home to prepare for Friday and Saturday home games against the Broncos and Lethbridge Hurricanes.