Late season additions paying off for Red Deer Rebels

Red Deer Rebels' Adam Helewka celebrates his goal during second period CHL Memorial Cup hockey action against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in Red Deer, Alta., Sunday, May 22, 2016.
Red Deer Rebels' Adam Helewka celebrates his goal during second period CHL Memorial Cup hockey action against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in Red Deer, Alta., Sunday, May 22, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

RED DEER, Alta. – The Red Deer Rebels sold off parts of the future in an attempt to win the 2016 Memorial Cup as the host team. It paid off on Sunday.

Adam Helewka scored twice and Jake DeBrusk added a goal and two assists as the host Rebels beat the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies 5-2.

Helewka, 20, and 19-year-old DeBrusk were added near the WHL trade deadline along with Luke Philp, also 19. The trio of veterans cost Red Deer six roster players and six draft picks over the next two years, including a first-rounder in 2017.

“We know why we were brought here and this was a moment we had to be different makers,” said Helewka, who scored 26 goals in 34 games for the Rebels after being acquired from the Spokane Chiefs.

“Me and Adam are both silently confident, we know we can do something good,” added DeBrusk. “(And) don’t discredit Luke Philp, us three as a line were buzzing tonight. Just a good night for us.”

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Philp had a single assist, but also won 21-of-31 faceoffs.

The victory keeps Red Deer’s tournament hopes very much alive after losing its opener to the OHL champion London Knights. Another loss would have left the Rebels in a do-or-die situation in their final round-robin game of the tournament against the WHL champion Brandon Wheat Kings.

READ MORE:  Memorial Cup: Last chance for junior players to show their skills ahead of NHL draft

Evan Polei and Haydn Fleury also scored for the Rebels (1-1), while Rylan Toth made 22 saves.

Timo Meier and Julien Nantel struck for the Huskies (1-1), who got a 33-save outing from Chase Marchand.

Red Deer’s Nelson Nogier, a 2014 Winnipeg Jets draft pick, took a cross-checking penalty 3:26 into the first period that led to the game’s opening goal. Meier was able to beat Toth from just inside the right face-off circle for his third goal of the tournament 51 seconds into the power play.

It didn’t take very long for the Huskies to double their lead as Nantel broke into the zone down the left side and snapped the puck through Toth’s legs at the eight-minute mark.

Rebels coach Brent Sutter called a timeout right after the goal to try and reset, and it seemed to spark his team.

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“Brent made a couple comments that really made us change our game,” said Helewka, a 2015 San Jose Sharks draft pick. “He told us to just simplify. We know (the Huskies) are a fast team so we tried to play in their zone and limit the turnovers, and that’s what we did.”

“I told them I loved him, play well, win the game, and I’ll love them more,” joked Sutter, who didn’t want to get into specifics about his message.

Polei got one back for the Rebels at 11:07 with a clean wrist shot between Marchand’s pads to make it 2-1, bringing the sold-out crowd of 7,000 at Enmax Centrium to their feet for the first time since opening faceoff.

Red Deer outshot the No. 1 ranked team in the country 7-0 to end the first and kept up the pressure early in the second, tying the game just 40 seconds into the period. DeBrusk made a pretty feed out front of the net to Helewka, who beat Marchand blocker side.

Four minutes later, while on the power play, Ivan Nikolishin put a point shot on net that DeBrusk tipped past Marchand for a 3-2 lead.

“As soon as we got the lead the crowd went nuts and we just kept saying score more, score more,” said DeBrusk, who was selected in the first round of the 2015 draft by the Boston Bruins.

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A goaltender interference penalty called on Rouyn-Noranda’s Anthony-John Greer led to Red Deer going up 4-2 with 11:09 to play in the second. DeBrusk, once again, found Helewka for his second of the game and third of the tournament.

At that point the Rebels were in full control and had a 19-4 shot advantage since finding their legs on Polei’s opening marker.

Greer picked up two and 10 for unsportsmanlike conduct midway through the third after arguing with the officials about an embellishment call. It left him unable to finish the game.

“I overreacted, I saw it a different way than the refs did (but) I learn from my mistakes,” said the Colorado Avalanche prospect.

Fleury added a late power-play goal to help earn Red Deer its first win at the tournament.

Notes: Only one host team in the past eight tournaments has gone on to win the Memorial Cup, the 2012 Shawinigan Cataractes… The London Knights (1-0) will play the Brandon Wheat Kings (0-1) on Monday.

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