It was a win one – lose one weekend for the Red Deer Rebels.
Facing Saskatoon Friday night for the first time since the Blades swept the Rebels out of the first round of the last seasons playoffs, Red Deer came out a bit flat in a 2-1 loss to their Eastern Conference rivals.
The Rebels fired 41 shots the way of Blades netminder Steven Stanford, but only John Persson, with his fourth of the year, could beat the 20-year-old goalie.
After the game, Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin wasn’t a happy camper, saying his team was too sloppy, too soft on the puck, and too inconsistent.
Wallin was in a much better mood after Saturday’s game, a game that saw the Rebels score three powerplay goals on seven chances and fire 52 shots at the net en route to a 6-2 win over the visiting Prince Albert Raiders.
“It was a big two points for us, and we felt we didn’t play as well as we could have on Friday night,” admitted Wallin.
“We didn’t want to lose two in a row, especially at home, so we wanted to come out and establish our game.”
Despite arriving in Red Deer at 8 a.m. Saturday morning after a long bus trip from Prince George, where they played Friday night, it was the Raiders who jumped out to a 1-0 early in the first period when Trochu native Mike Winther scored his second of the season.
But just 1:11 later, Adam Kambeitz got Red Deer back on even footing with his fifth of the year.
“I thought we had a tentative start, a slow start, but I thought we turned the tide in the last 10 minutes of the first period and got better from there,” said Wallin.
“It was a little bit frustrating that we didn’t get after them early in the game, because that was certainly part of the game plan, to try and wear them down and take them out early. Giving up that first goal didn’t bode well for us, but we managed to pull back in and get ourselves going and obviously, Kamby’s first goal was a real big goal for us.”
The Rebels really found their stride in the second period, scoring two powerplay goals in the first 5:44 of the middle stanza to take a 3-1 lead, before Kambeitz tallied his second goal of the night to give Red Deer a 4-1 advantage heading into the third period.
“I thought we showed a lot of tenacity, especially in the second period, down low in the offensive zone,” said Wallin, who was impressed with how hard his forwards were driving the Raiders net on Saturday after a lackluster effort against the Blades on Friday.
“Again, when you’re playing against a tired hockey team, or any hockey team, you want to force them to work in their end of the rink and wear them down and I thought we had some really good shifts in the second period where we cycled the puck, and did a great job of protecting the puck down low.”
The Rebels would add two more goals in the third period, including Kambeitz notching his seventh of the year to complete the hat trick.
“It was good for us to come out and respond after not playing our best on Friday night,” said the 18-year-old Coaldale native who did his best to deflect credit for his hat trick to his teammates.
“All the goals that happened came from great passes from my teammates, so that was a big part of it, but I think I’m just playing with more confidence in myself, and getting more confidence from the coaching staff. They’ve given me the opportunity, and I’ve started to put up some points and I just want to keep it going and keep building on it.”