The ENMAX Centrium was rocking Sunday night as the hometown crowd cheered their Red Deer Rebels on to a 5-2 victory over the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.
After falling 6-2 to the London Knights in the opening game of the 2016 MasterCard Memorial Cup tournament on Friday, the Rebels knew they needed to respond in a big way against the QMJHL champions, who were coming off a 5-3 victory over the Brandon Wheat Kings the previous night of the tournament.
“Well, you’re either 0-2 or 1-1 and I liked the 1-1 a lot better,” said Rebels’ Head Coach and General Manager Brent Sutter after Sunday night’s win, which saw the host team surge back from an early two goal deficit to pick up their first win of the tournament.
Sutter said the way his team responded to the first two goals, which came in the first 10 minutes of the game, played an important part in the win.
“It was obviously very, very important. We needed to get into this tournament and get into our minds that, when you have a layoff like we did, you know you’re always a little bit scared of that. Just mentally getting back into game mentality and how we have to play, things we have to do and the emotion of the game. And I thought we did a really good job tonight with that.”
The turning point for the Rebels came immediately following the second goal. Sutter called a timeout and brought his players in for a quick chat and to regroup.
Soon afterwards, Evan Polei got his team on the board with a shot from the top of the face-off circle to cut the Huskies’ lead in half heading into the first intermission.
The goal swung the momentum in the Rebels’ favour and they never looked back.
“I just liked our team and the way we played after that point. We got back to playing like we can play,” Sutter said.
It took just 40 seconds after the start of the second period for the Rebels to even the odds with the Huskies, as playoff scoring leader Adam Helewka potted his second of the tournament on a feed from linemate Jake DeBrusk.
Four minutes later, DeBrusk scored one of his own to give the hosts their first lead of the game.
Playing on the Rebels’ top line along with Rebels’ captain Luke Philp, the two forwards were dynamite for the Rebels all night long, combining for seven points on the night.
“The two players I was playing with are both great players. They see the ice well, they work hard. We just try to get the chemistry going and they made it easy for me,” said Helewka, who himself had a pair of goals and an assist in the win.
Another important factor for the Rebels in the victory was special teams, as they had three power-play goals, including DeBrusk’s game winner, on nine opportunities.
“Every team in this tournament has a great power-play and we need to have a great power-play as well. The power-plays tonight didn’t go as planned but we scored on a couple of them. It doesn’t matter how good or bad the power-plays are as long as you score some goals and timely goals. And I thought that was big for us tonight,” DeBrusk said.
The win guarantees Red Deer at least a tie breaker game.
The Rebels are back in action on Wednesday night when they’ll look to get some revenge on the Brandon Wheat Kings, who eliminated the Rebels in five games in the WHL Eastern Conference final three weeks ago.
Tomorrow night’s 2016 MasterCard Memorial Cup matchup features the Wheat Kings taking on the OHL champion London Knights as the Wheaties look to become the first team since April 1st to beat London’s offensive powerhouse. Puck drop on that game is at 6 p.m.