September 2, 2007
by Greg Meachem
Rebels 5 Hitmen 3
Playing his first official game as a Red Deer Rebel, Kristian Reichel couldn’t have hoped for a more successful debut.
The 19-year-old Czech Republic native scored just 19 seconds into Friday’s WHL preseason tournament contest at the Centrium, then added two more goals to lead the Rebels to a 5-3 win over the Calgary Hitmen.
“When you score on first shift, everything is easier. But the guys helped me lots,” said Reichel, in reference to linemates Brandon Hagel and Lane Zablocki.
“With Hagey and Zabo, we are a good line tonight. I hope so it will be like this like in (regular) season.”
Reichel beat Calgary netminder Nick Schneider with a snap shot from the low slot to open the scoring and notched his second of the evening just over 15 minutes later.
“It was what we were kind of hoping for. We wanted to have a quick start and we jumped out early,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “I thought some of the young kids played well and I thought our vets were good too.
“It was our first game and we got a good feel for some things. We wanted to see where certain guys are at and they showed us.”
The Hitmen pulled even with goals just 91 seconds apart early in the middle period as rookie defenceman Layne Toder scored from between the circles with a rising shot and Justyn Gurney, alone at the side of the net, tapped in a cross-crease feed from Hunter Campbell.
Chris Douglas restored Red Deer’s lead at 8:34 of the period, directing a centering pass from Reese Johnson through Schneider’s pads, but Campbell replied for the visitors five minutes later.
Rebels prospect River Fahey potted the eventual winner at 15:17, skating across the goal mouth off a faceoff in the Calgary end and catching the top of the net, and Reichel completed his hat trick with a power play marker at 10:56 of the final frame.
Sutter didn’t fault rookie netminder Ethan Anders with any of the three goals he allowed. Anders finished with 18 saves through 40 minutes while veteran Lasse Petersen stopped all nine shots he faced in the third period.
“One was a clear shot, top shelf, from the slot, another came on a two-on-one break and the other was an empty-net goal where the guy just had to tap the puck in,” said the Rebels boss.
“I thought he (Anders) did a good job and Petey played well when he went in. It was a solid effort.”
At the end of the day, Reichel, a member of the Czech team at the most recent world junior championship, was the man of the hour and he continued to praise his linemates for the chemistry they’ve already established.
“Actually, we are good friends,” said the import center. “We are good friends outside and that’s like on the rink. When you are friendly it’s better on the ice. We are getting pucks and shooting on the goal. That’s the main point.”
“He shoots the puck. He’s a smart player and he works hard and competes,” Sutter said of the Rebels’ lone pick in this year’s CHL import draft. “You can tell he’s played at a high level. It was impressive.”
Schneider made 27 saves while going the distance for the Hitmen.
Hagel and defenceman Alexander Alexeyev each picked up two assists for the Rebels.
Both teams dressed nine rookie skaters.
Following the game, Sutter reassigned defenceman Nic Draffin, who will suit up with the Lethbridge midget AAA Hurricanes for a second season, and forward Justin Svenson, who will return to the Rink Academy in Winnipeg.
Red Deer will take on the Edmonton Oil Kings Saturday. Start time is 7 p.m.
Earlier in the day, Kody McDonald scored at 15:55 of the third period to lift the Prince George Cougars to a 3-2 win over the Oil Kings in the first game of the Rebels’ four-team tournament.
Vladislav Mikhalchuk scored first- and second-period goals to stake the Cougars to a 2-0 lead, but the Oil Kings pulled even on tallies from Brett Kemp and Conner McDonald.
Prince George starting netminder Tavin Grant stopped all 12 shots he faced before being replaced by Brock Hamm, who surrendered both Edmonton goals on 12 shots.
Travis Child started in the Edmonton goal and turned aside 16 of 17 shots. Boston Bilous blocked 11 of 13 after entering halfway through the contest. Calgary and Prince George will meet today at 3 p.m.