The Red Deer Rebels continued to roll over the weekend, earning two big home-ice wins to stay undefeated on the season.
The Rebels improved their record to 4-0-0 last week with a 5-1 rout of the Swift Current Broncos on Friday night before getting a huge 7-4 victory over the Kelowna Rockets on Saturday.
Things started off strong in the first game when Rebels forward Grayson Pawlenchuck picked up the puck behind Swift Current’s net, stepped out in front and buried his second of the season just a minute and a half into the game to give the Rebels an early first period lead.
After that it was all downhill for the Rebels, who out shot the Broncos 48-25 in the game.
“I thought we did a really good job with puck possession, controlling plays. We were obviously really good in the offensive zone,” said Rebels’ Head Coach and General Manager Brent Sutter after the game.
The team was sharp all game long, going 2/6 on the power play and not taking a single minor penalty all game.
“We wanted to be disciplined but, you know, when you have the puck you’re not chasing either,” Sutter said.
Newcomers Ivan Nikolishin and Michael Spacek also shone in the game, combining for five points and three goals. Nikolishin scored twice and earned himself a first-star selection.
Rebels’ Captain Conner Bleackley scored his first of the season in his first game back from NHL camp.
“I felt okay. I think it’s a little bit different with the systems and stuff. I thought our line played pretty well,” Bleackley said.
Saturday night was a tougher test as the Rebels played host to the defending WHL champions – the Kelowna Rockets.
The Rebels had a slower start to the second game of the weekend. They surrendered the first goal of the game on the penalty kill eight minutes into the first period.
The Rebels would answer back quickly, though. At 14:57 of the first, Brandon Hagel carried the puck over the Rockets’ blue line. He quickly dropped the puck back to Kayle Doetzel, who fired a shot on goal which deflected off of veteran forward Evan Polei and past Kelowna’s Michael Herringer to tie the game at one.
Polei would add his second goal of the night just 18 seconds later to put the home team in front 2-1 going into the second frame.
Red Deer came out guns blazing in the second period. Rookie sensation Spacek ripped one past Herringer just 1:52 into the period for his fifth goal in just four games. He would add an assist later to bring his league-leading point total to nine.
They would add three more goals off the sticks of Pawlenchuck, Austin Pratt, and Colton Bobyk before the end of the period. Kelowna scored just once in the second frame when Kole Lind shovelled a rebound over Regan Toth at 7:14.
The performance didn’t hold up, though. The Rebs looked flat coming out of the gates in the third period, which has been Kelowna’s strongest in the last couple of years, and the Rockets made them pay for it.
Just 13 seconds into the final frame, Jeff DeWit turned the puck over to Calvin Thurkauf in front of the Rebels net. Thurkauf made no mistake and fired the puck past Toth.
Kelowna added another later in the frame to cut the Rebels lead to two with four minutes left.
Red Deer managed to add an empty net goal late in the game but it was a much closer contest than the score would suggest.
“I wasn’t particularly pleased with the way we played. I think we made a lot of soft plays tonight,” Sutter said.
The Rebels had a night time game in Lethbridge on Tuesday night and will follow that up with a home and home set against their provincial and divisional rivals, the Calgary Hitmen, this weekend.