‘Clutch’ would be a good word to describe the Red Deer Rebels’ play in their first round series against the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
The Rebels have yet to take a lead into the third period against the Hurricanes, yet they find themselves on the brink of eliminating their southern Alberta rivals.
Red Deer took a commanding 3-1 lead in the series with a 5-3 victory at the ENMAX Centrium on Thursday night.
“It was huge to come back and score that very important goal in the last couple of minutes,” said Rebels’ forward Lane Zablocki.
The Wetaskiwin product notched a pair of goals in the contest to bring his post-season points total to seven.
“I feel really good. I’ve got my confidence high. As a team we all believe and that’s what you need this time of the year, you need everyone believing and I think that’s the biggest part,” said Zablocki.
Although penalty troubles plagued the Rebels throughout the game, Red Deer came away with a win thanks to a three goal performance in the third period.
“It was just another really good playoff game,” said Rebels’ Head Coach/GM Brent Sutter, noting that he would prefer to see his team put on a full 60 minute performance, but he’s not complaining about the wins.
“You’ve got to stick with it. Obviously you don’t like being in those positions. I’d rather not be in that position but you are and you just have to find a way. The character inside your room has to come out, your leadership has to be good and I thought our guys were again.”
After falling behind 3-2 after the first two periods, Red Deer seemed to find another gear in the third.
Zablocki kicked off the comeback attempt with a power play marker halfway through the final frame that tied the game up at three before Rebels’ forward Evan Polei stepped up to score his seventh game winning goal of the year in the final two minutes to give his team a 4-3 lead.
Brandon Hagel added an empty netter a minute later to cement the victory.
“Through this series for the most part we’ve been very focused and doing what we have to do to give ourselves a chance. We’re obviously playing a very good hockey team, but that being said we like to think that when we do things the right way we’re a very good team too,” Sutter said.
The Rebels have a chance to close out the series on Saturday when they travel to Lethbridge for game five of the series. That game gets underway at 7 p.m. at the ENMAX Centre.