Rebels defeat the Brandon Wheat Kings, 5-3, to take the final playoff spot for the Eastern Conference. Robin Grant/Red Deer Express

Rebels win a big one in stunning comeback victory Friday

Red Deer takes the final playoff spot from Brandon Wheat Kings for Eastern Conference

Some Rebels hockey magic happened on the ice Friday night at the Centrium.

After an uninspired two periods, with Red Deer making passive plays while the Wheat Kings scored three goals, only Forward Brandon Hagel found the back of the net in the second period.

The game picked up drastically in the third period with a stunning comeback.

In the last 10 minutes, the Rebels rallied to score four goals, defeating Brandon, 5-3.

“I thought we played kind of passive for a good part of the game,” said General Manager and Head Coach Brent Sutter. “We were just kind of on our heels too much.”

Everything changed in the final period.

“We got moving and got some urgency, got some scoring chances and capitalized on them. I just don’t think we had enough guys going for the first two periods of the game. We got playing in the third and, again, you come back and that’s what you need,” he said.

In a tragic turn of events, Defenseman Alexander Alexeyev went down with a knee injury. The arena went quiet as he lay on the ice in obvious pain. Medics rushed in and carried him off on a stretcher.

Forward Zach Smith scored Red Deer’s winning goal and his thirteenth of the season. During the first two periods, the team was over-complicating things, he said.

“In the third, we just got simple and got pucks deep and I thought we just outworked them.”

Seeing Alexeyev go down with what appeared to be a serious injury motivated the Rebels to finish the game off for their teammate, added Smith.

“Someone cycled it down low, I think it was (Oleg Zaytsev). I just got the puck behind the net and then just went to throw it on net,” he said.

“We’ve been talking about throwing it on net all year. I just threw the puck on net and it happened to go in.”

With two victories over the weekend — the Rebels defeated the Kootenay Ice, 8-4, Saturday at the Centrium — Red Deer currently sits first in the Eastern Conference Wild Card spot in front of the Medicine Hat Tigers and Brandon Wheat Kings.

The Rebels host the Edmonton Oil Kings Tuesday at 7 p.m.

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