The Red Deer Rebels are riding pretty high these days.
The Rebels added wins number 10 and 11 to their season high winning streak this past weekend, blanking the Edmonton Oil Kings 5-0 on Friday night at the Centrium before rallying for a 5-3 home win over Calgary on Saturday.
Friday night, Rebels netminder Darcy Kuemper kicked out 31 shots in picking his Canadian Hockey League leading 10th shutout of the year, with Andrej Kudrna, Aaron Borejko, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Brett Ferguson (2) scoring the goals.
Saturday night, it was a different story as Red Deer had to rally after Calgary opened the game with two goals to take a 2-0 lead into the second period.
“We certainly didn’t play the way we wanted to in the first period. It’s not that we weren’t prepared, or anything like that, we just, for whatever reason, didn’t seem to have a lot of jump,” said Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin after Saturday’s contest.
“On the bench, guys seemed to be gasping for air, and we just didn’t seem to have our legs under us. Obviously they got the jump on us with the first two goals, and we didn’t play the way we wanted to in the first period. We didn’t establish any forecheck and we were chasing the puck around our own end of the rink. “
John Persson got the comeback started just 50 seconds into the second period to cut the deficit to 2-1 before Byron Froese scored a five on three powerplay goal to tie the game at 2-2 with 20 minutes left to play.
“We got our feet moving in the second, and Johnny’s goal was just the result of getting up the ice, moving his feet, and getting some forecheck,” said Wallin.
“I thought we started to take over in the second period. The power play goal to even things up was a big goal and I thought we controlled a lot of the play from that point on.”
Froese would give Red Deer its first lead of the game at the 7:25 mark of the third period, before rookie blueliner Mathew Dumba hammered in a shot from the point to make it 4-2 Rebels.
With just under seven minutes to go, Hitmen forward Cody Sylvester got Calgary a bit closer before Froese completed the hat trick to give Red Deer the 5-3 win.
“We started off a little slow, a little sluggish. We weren’t getting pressure on their d-men and I think that really cost us in the first,” said Froese, who now leads the team with 27 goals on the year.
“We picked it up in the second and we just built from there, getting better every shift as the game went on.”
Wallin hopes his club learned something from Saturday’s game, and takes those lessons into this week’s games in Saskatoon and Prince Albert.
“You look at Calgary’s position in the standings and you think they’re not a very good hockey team but they certainly don’t play like a last place team,” said Wallin.
“They come at you hard and they pressured us and you’ve got to be ready to go at the start of every night, regardless of your opponent. It was a good test for us, but it was good to come out on top for sure.”
With the weekend wins, the Central Division leading Rebels close out January with an 11-2-0-1 record, good for a seven point cushion on second place Kootenay, but they’ll be in tough this week to keep the winning streak going.
The Rebels left on Monday for Saskatchewan and were in Saskatoon last night to face the WHL leading Blades (results not available by press time), and they return to action tonight in Prince Albert.
“It’s going to be a litmus test for sure. It’s been a game that, while we haven’t been looking ahead to it, I’m sure both teams have circled on the calendar,” said Wallin when asked about Tuesday’s big game against the Blades.
“It’ll be a big game, no question, and a good test to see where we’re at and we’re excited and looking forward to it.”
Red Deer returns home Friday to host the Moose Jaw Warriors, a team they have shut out in all three of the previous meetings this season.