by Lisa Brown on 01/23/12 at 03:00 AM ET
The competition of the WHL’s Central Division has been heating up as of late. The Edmonton Oil Kings continue to put up record numbers and separate themselves from the rest of the pack and at the same time, the interdivisional games become even more valuable as teams gear up to win home ice advantage.
Sunday afternoon was another Central Division matchup when the Calgary Hitmen Hosted the Red Deer Rebels. The Rebels for a second year in a row are of particular interest to Oilers fans due to a young defenceman from Calgary by the name of Mathew Dumba.
The Red Deer Rebels came out storming and outshooting their opponents. But it was Chase Clayton of the Calgary Hitmen who would be the lone first period scorer. Shorthanded, Clayton skated into the zone along the boards and then because all of the cool kids are doing it, did a 360 turn while all alone and then skated hard to the net. Clayton faked out the Rebels defenceman who threw himself to the ice in a shot blocking attempt, and backhanded the shot up into the net.
The Rebels had three power play opportunities in the first period, but struggled to take advantage as the Hitmen’s penalty killing was at their best.
The lone second period goal came on the power play and started with Colin Bowman’s shot from the point, a first rebound attempt from Calder Brooks, and on the second rebound Rebels’ goaltender Deven Dubyk opened up his five hole and allowed Chase Clayton to score his second goal of the game.
Yes, it is Deven Dubyk and not Devan Dubnyk. It is astounding the coincidence though. They both have similar names and are both goaltenders. It does lead to some confusion even with the two playing in different leagues.
The Red Deer Rebels had the best scoring chances, but Chris Driedger, the 6’2” 17 year old goaltender denied all 29 shots through the first two periods. With their first shot of the third period, the Rebels finally got on the board.
With less than a minute of power play time on the clock from a second period Hitmen infraction, Mathew Dumba showed a little more of what he can do as he unleashed a rocket of a shot from the point. Prior to this, Dumba had been making smart tape to tape passes, making plays and directing shots on net, but this slapshot was the first to make it through.
After allowing a third period goal, the Hitmen increased their level of intensity. They knew that a one goal game can easily slip away. Jimmy Bubnick would add to the Hitmen’s total with a quick open side goal on Rebels’ goaltender Dubyk giving the Hitmen a 3-1 lead.
But the Rebels refused to go quietly and Calgary Flames prospect Tyson Ness scored with a nifty backhand shot, one timing the puck past Hitmen goaltender Chris Driedger.
There was a controversial call in the third that could have been a game changer. Dubyk came out of his net to play the puck, but got caught up with Calder Brooks and even a couple of other Rebels. Dubyk threw himself to the ice, trying to cover as much of his crease as he could, but the puck still found the back of the net.
The goal was called off because Brooks was in the crease. At least, that was the call on the ice. In the video replay you could see that Brooks left the crease before the goal, but that there was an opportunity to say that Brooks impeded Dubyk. The fans were unhappy, as were the Hitmen, but it remained a 3-2 game.
“Once it was 3-2 and even after that goal, I thought it was the best hockey we’d played all night.” Said Hitmen head coach Mike Williamson. “We seemed to have more jump and we started skating and hitting a little bit and putting pucks in deep so I don’t know if it was because everything was on the line and that woke us up a little bit but that was probably the best we played.”
With the score 3-2, the Hitmen played defencively and continued to look for another goal. It wouldn’t come until Dubyk left the net for the extra attacker. Victor Rask would score his 20th of the year on the empty net with less than a minute to go in regulation.
The Rebels had their chances, and were arguably the better team on the ice through the first two periods, and perhaps further. They just weren’t getting the bounces and Driedger was definitely on his game.
“It was a really good battle by our team.” Reflected the Red Deer Rebel’s best player of the game Mathew Dumba. “It’s hard when we’ve worked so hard and some of the bounces just don’t go your way. Calgary Hitmen capitalized on their opportunities and it’s unfortunate, but I’m really happy with how we worked and we just couldn’t carry that over the next league.”
For the Hitmen, there were players that also shone outside of their goaltender. One of those players was Chase Clayton who scored two goals.
Clayton certainly knew just how important this win was. “It was absolutely huge. They believe that if they head to head win over us they could get some wins and climb back into things and base their playoff hopes on that.
“We knew coming in that these were two must win points with divisional opponents, especially with teams like Medicine Hat we haven’t quite been able to figure out this year. They’re huge games and we need them and we know it.”
The Rebels and Hitmen will face each other three more times in the regular season. Both teams are well matched, and it will be another intense battle. The Hitmen are now the series leader, with two of the three games.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
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