The Castlegar Rebels fell behind early Sunday against the Nelson Leafs but rallied for a 5-3 win.
The Leafs got off to a quick start with two goals within the first two minutes. The Rebels weathered the early storm and were able to put together a comeback with some hard-fought play. Bryan Lubin scored on a rebound to put the Rebels within one with two minutes left in the first.
“It was right at the end of a power play,” said Lubin. “Our defenceman, (Dylan) Bowerman took a shot at the net. He saw the goalie out of position so he thought he’d throw it to net and create some havoc. (teammate) Matt Reed was in front of the net and it went off him and right to me waiting backdoor and I had an open net.”
James Sorrey scored to give the Leafs a 3-1 lead early in the second stanza. At 15:33, Braydon Horcoff put the Rebs within one. Lubin, with his second goal of the game, tied the score at 11:38 of the second with a breakaway goal.
“It was a kind of funky deal there,” said Lubin. “Coach told me to go out. We didn’t know that two guys came off the ice (for Nelson). I felt the tap on the shoulder and I jumped on the ice. I saw the whole (Nelson) team was above the red line, we had possession of the puck. So I just waited back and I had a breakaway from the red line in.”
Diego Bartlett gave the Rebels their first lead at 11:36 of the third period. Jamie Vlanich gave the home team some insurance by way of a powerplay marker with 46 seconds left in the third.
“To be honest, it was a couple of breakdowns early on,” said Rebel coach Steve Junker regarding the Rebels’ slow start. “I thought our guys came out ready to play and had a great first shift. There was a couple of bad bounces. Those things happen. You try to prepare for them and try to avoid them but it’s hockey and mistakes happen and things like that happen. I think the big lesson was not getting down. Our guys really showed a lot of mental toughness and stuck with the game plan and really, I thought, out-played them even though we were down early.”
Junker was pleased with how the team fought back after finding itself down early.
“We really didn’t miss a beat,” he said. “It’s really easy for guys to get down when you’re down 2-0. It’s the natural thing to do. I thought our guys battled and stuck to the game plan and played a solid game from that point on.”
Lubin, who came to the Rebels this year after playing midget AAA hockey in Michigan last year, said the key to the comeback was the team remaining positive.
“Nobody got down,” he said. “Nobody was yelling at each other at the bench. We all came together as a team. We came out strong and they just got a couple of bounces there early.”
Being able to get scoring from outside the Stuart Walton-Diego Bartlett-Jamie Vlanich trio is one of the keys to the Rebels going deep in the play-offs and getting a strong performance from the likes of Lubin is a real boon to the team.
“He had a great game,” said Junker. “I thought we had our power play going, which it hasn’t, as well, which is great. That was nice to see. We had great play from Jordan Gluck again.”
After a shaky start, Gluck was a rock in the net for the Rebs stopping 24 shots. Recently acquired Nelson netminder Marcus Beesley stopped 43 of 48 Castlegar shots. Beesley was acquired from the Kamloops Storm in a deal that saw the Leafs send goalie Cody Boeckman to Golden.
The only other game last week for Castlegar was a rare Wednesday match-up with Spokane.
The host Rebels were absolutely dominant in the first period, outshooting the Braves 25-1 on the way to a 3-0 lead after one period. They would add two more to cruise to a 5-0 victory.
“I thought we came out really strong, spent quite a lot of the first period in the offensive zone,” said Junker. “It was a dominant start. Our guys were ready to go. It was nice to see and we kind of rode that start for the rest of the game.”
Opening the scoring was Walton with his first of two, followed by Vlanich and defenceman Aaron Brewer, who scored from the point on the powerplay.
The Rebels would finish strong with Walton’s second of the game in the second period and a goal from Darren Medeiros in the third to give them a 5-0 shut-out win over the fourth place Braves.
Jordan Gluck picked up the shut-out win for the Rebels stopping 16 shots.
Lubin said the Spokane game was a full team effort. “I’d say everything was going well,” he said. “We did all the little things well. We got pucks deep. We had good communication; we moved the puck up well. We knew their goalie was a big guy and we had to get him moving so we just kept moving the puck around and put a bunch behind him.”
The Rebels, along with Beaver Valley are now two points behind Nelson for first place in the division with 53 points with 14 regular season games left.
“Obviously, getting home ice for the play-offs is something to shoot for, for sure,” said Junker. “Everybody is going to be tinkering with their line-ups leading up to the deadline on Jan. 10. As for the remainder of the season, we’re looking to find our form and work out any kinks in our game and really get everyone on to the same page. We’re focusing on ourselves rather than worrying about what other teams are doing. Getting our game where it needs to be.”
Castlegar has three games this week. Tonight (Thursday) in Grand Forks against the lowly Border Bruins and then a home and home with Creston Valley. The Rebs host the Thunder Cats Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Castlegar Complex and then travel to Creston for a Sunday afternoon game at the Johnny Bucyk Arena against the ‘Cats. Creston Valley is only fourth in the Eddie Mountain division, but features KIJHL top-10 scorer Trevor Hanna who has 25 goals and 46 points in 39 games.
“You have to be up for every game,” said Lubin. “Everybody can beat everybody in this league if you don’t show up to play. We’re playing good hockey now and want to keep it up. It’s coming down to play-off time. We just need to keep rolling and keep the momentum going. We can’t take any days off.”