It wasn’t exactly how they wanted to do it, but the Red Deer Rebels have clinched a spot in the WHL playoffs.
The Rebels dropped an entertaining 4-3 game to the Lethbridge Hurricanes at the Westerner Park Centrium on Friday, but earned a post-season berth when the Brandon Wheat Kings fell 5-4 to the Regina Pats.
Red Deer will take on the top-ranked Prince Albert Raiders in the WHL Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
Lethbridge jumped out to a 2-0 lead in Friday’s game with goals 30 seconds apart even strength from Dylan Cozens and on a 4-on-3 power play from Jake Leschyshyn.
The captain got things going for the home side as Reese Johnson intercepted a pass at the Hurricanes blue line then fired home his 25th goal of the season at the 9:13 mark.
Johnson struck again 5:18 into period two to tie the game 2-2.
Lethbridge regained the lead at the 12:58 mark when Leschyshyn capitalized on another rebound given up by Rebels goalie Ethan Anders.
But just 43 seconds later, Johnson pushed home his hat trick goal to even the score at 3-3.
Leschyshyn, who was drafted into the WHL by the Rebels, joined the hat trick party 4:15 into period three when he put home yet another rebound for his 40th goal on the season and the eventual game winner.
Lethbridge outshot Red Deer 33-30 on the night and was 1-for-1 on the power play while the Rebels were 1-for-3. Carl Tetachuk outdueled Anders to earn the victory.
With the win, the Hurricanes pulled even with the Edmonton Oil Kings atop the WHL Central Division with 88 points. Lethbridge has one regular season game remaining Saturday at home versus Medicine Hat. Edmonton has two games remaining, Saturday versus Calgary and
The Rebels wrap up the regular season on Sunday when they make their final visit to Cranbrook to take on the Kootenay Ice (4 p.m. on 106.7 THE DRIVE).
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