June 15th, 2024

Red Deer looking to continue momentum with series lead

By JAMES TUBB on April 5, 2024.

NEWS PHOTO JAMES TUBB Red Deer Rebels forward Jhett Larson scores on a shorthanded breakaway in the first period of a 3-2 Game 4 win Wednesday night in Red Deer over the Medicine Hat Tigers.

jtubb@medicinehatnews.com@ReporterTubb

The Red Deer Rebels played their best hockey of their first-round series Wednesday to take Game 4. With three opportunities ahead to punch their ticket to the second round, they’ll look to replicate that effort.

The Rebels scored the opening goal for the first time in the series and rolled with the punches the Medicine Hat Tigers threw at them, ultimately throwing the last haymaker with a last-second goal from Kalan Lind securing them the win and a commanding 3-1 series lead.

Head coach Dave Struch says it was their best game of the series.

“That was a little more like what playoff hockey is supposed to be,” Struch said. “The first 60 minutes we did the right things, we continue to get better at doing those right things. Yes, there were some turnovers but they had the same turnovers. I think back and forth, it was a good playoff game.”

Lind’s goal with 0.9 seconds left in the game was his second game winner of the series, scoring the double-overtime tally in Game 1 to complete a four-goal comeback for the Rebels at Medicine Hat on March 29.

As they look to close out the series Friday in Game 5 back at Co-op Place, Lind says all the pressure is on their group.

“They’re fighting for the lives, they’re going to be coming out pushing as hard as they can,” Lind said. “They’ve got a really good hockey team over there, we’ve seen it this whole series, it’s been a close series from the start until the end of the games. We’re going to come into that game ready to go just like we were tonight and ready to push hard, play hard, but I think even though we were good tonight I think we’ve got better.”

All three of Red Deer’s wins in the Central division matchup have come in one-goal games, with Lind playing hero in Games 1 and 4 and Samuel Drancak scoring an overtime power play goal in Game 3 Wednesday. It’s a resiliency in tight games and seizing the big moments in front of them that Struch says they talked about before playoffs began and look to build off as they continue those playoff hopes.

“We talked about how what we’ve done to train and prepare for this, we still hadn’t seen a real true playoff game from our group,” Struch said. “For us to come out and play the right way in an important game like this, it was relentless, resilience, tenacious, all those words are really important. But it’s something that we can build off of, we can be happy with the win, but we can’t be satisfied moving forward here.”

Struch liked how his team stayed even keeled on the bench during Game 4 as Medicine Hat tied the game up twice and credited his leadership group for keeping everyone calm as they waited for their moment to win the game. As the Rebels look to advance to the second round for the third straight season, it’ll be experience from previous playoff years, including thier blown 3-0 series lead last season against the Saskatoon Blades and the first four games of the series that will help aid their mission there, Struch says.

“When you look at that experience, we can take past experiences from past years and the amount of games we’ve played,” Struch said. “But I think we need to learn from the experience that we’ve had in these first four games. We can bottle it up, the energy, take the positives and then build on every game. I think that’s one thing that we’ve done here.”

With the series turning back to Medicine Hat and if it did go the distance of seven games, there would potentially be two games to be played at Co-op Place. Having won Game 1 there already, Lind says that victory and experience goes a long way to building confidence in their abilities to win on the road.

“It’s nice, too, actually for even the young guys just to get some experience in an away rink in playoffs, with the atmosphere,” Lind said. “It was a great atmosphere there, the fans are great, it was awesome games there. We’ve got experience now under us and we’re hoping to go in there and get the same results as Game 1.”

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