Evan Polei has a knack for scoring big goals in big game situations.
The 20-year-old Red Deer Rebels’ forward added another tally to his five game winning goals this season when he notched the winning goal 50 seconds into the double overtime period of game three of his team’s WHL Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Wednesday night in Red Deer.
“It was a blur. I just got the puck and I thought I could make a move on the d-man and it just made a nice bounce off his stick and I just put it upstairs,” said the Wetaskiwin product after the Rebels’ 4-3 victory at the ENMAX Centrium.
“It was a good, hard-fought game by both teams. Lethbridge is a very strong team and they work hard every single night and it was going to be a challenge for us to get by this team so we’ve just got to keep working hard.”
Polei’s goal was the final piece of a comeback which began in the final five minutes of the third period with the Rebels down 3-1.
Lane Zablocki opened the scoring for the home team just two minutes into the opening period with a wrister from the hash marks to give his team a 1-0 lead.
Lethbridge responded with three unanswered goals, including a power play marker midway through the first period to take a commanding lead into the dying minutes of the third period.
“Obviously they were up 3-1 late in the game and we got a couple of power plays. One we didn’t capitalize on it and then the next one we got, we took a timeout on it and we talked about some different things because they were changing some of their PK up and we were able to get that goal,” said Rebels’ Head Coach/GM Brent Sutter.
Brandon Hagel came up big for the Rebels with his second of the playoffs with just four minutes remaining in the final period.
Three minutes and 40 seconds later with the Rebels’ net empty, Zablocki fired his second of the game past the Hurricanes’ goaltender to send the game into overtime.
“You get into overtime anything can happen. Both teams had chances in that first overtime period. Obviously it happened quickly in the second but we’ll certainly take the victory tonight, no question,” said Sutter, adding that his team’s focus will now shift towards preparing for game four on Thursday night.
The win gives the Rebels a 2-1 lead in the best of seven series against the Hurricanes.
Puck drop on that game is at 7 p.m. at the ENMAX Centrium.