When the Red Deer Rebels are at the top of the game they’ve shown they’re capable of playing, and competing, with any team in the WHL.
They showed it again Saturday night with a much improved effort from their home loss Friday to Prince Albert, scoring four straight third period goals for a 5-3 win over the high flying Swift Current Broncos.
“It certainly was an exciting win, to come back like that and score four goals in the third to win,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “But moreso than anything, I just liked our overall game tonight. We were just much better in a lot of areas. We played more tonight like we had seen on the road trip. When we play that way we’ll find ways to get points and find ways to win hockey games.”
The first period was quick-paced but featured few scoring chances and only 13 total shots on goal, the Broncos with seven of them.
Things opened up starting 1:28 into period two with Brandon Hagel taking a long stretch pass from Alexander Alexeyev and ripping a shot past Broncos goalie Joel Hofer for his 12th goal of the season.
Just 1:11 later, Giorgio Estephan, left unchecked in the Rebels slot, took a pass from Sylvan Lake’s Tyler Steenbergen and beat Riley Lamb to tie the game 1-1.
The Broncos took their first lead of the game 15:26 into period two when Matteo Gennaro somehow snuck a backhand shot past Lamb for his 37th goal of the year.
Glenn Gawdin, the WHL’s leading scorer and Calgary Flames prospect, gave the Broncos a 3-1 lead when he tucked a wraparound shot past Lamb 7:03 into period three. For Gawdin, it was goal number 52 on the season.
With the Rebels trailing by a pair with less than 13 minutes left to play, their captain took it upon himself to get his team back in the game. Grayson Pawlenchuk started by levelling Beck Malenstyn with a big hit in the corner before finding the loose puck and beating Hofer to make it 3-2 with 10:55 left to play.
At the 15:53 mark, Josh Tarzwell shot from a sharp angle and Pawlenchuk followed up to put home the rebound, tying the game 3-3.
Just 57 seconds later, a long shot from Mason McCarty snuck past Hofer and sat loose in the crease. Chris Douglas charged the net and jammed the puck home for his seventh goal of the year and a 4-3 Rebels lead.
Kristian Reichel put the wraps on the come from behind win with an empty netter from 190 feet away, Reichel’s 29th goal of the season with 41.6 seconds left to play.
“That’s definitely a big win for us, it’s huge for the standings too,” said Pawlenchuk. “It was huge especially (after) the last two games we played and not getting the points there that we needed. It was a big win for us and two huge points at this time of the year.”
Swift Current outshot Red Deer 31-28 on the night while their league leading power play was kept to 0/1 on the night. The Rebels were 0/2 with the man advantage.
“What’s encouraging with it is when we do things right and play the right way, we can play with those teams. Even with our youth we can do things right and have success," Sutter added.
Next up for the Rebels is another home game Wednesday, Feb. 28 versus Calgary (7 p.m. on 106.7 The Drive).
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