• Hitmen bounce back from being shut out in Red Deer, whip Rebels 6-2

    Red Deer Rebels’ Wyatt Johnson isn’t happy about the check from Calgary Hitmen Travis Sanheim at the Saddledome on Sunday.

    Led by the line of Kenton Helgesen, Adam Tambellini and Jake Virtanen, the Calgary Hitmen bounced back with a 6-2 win over the Red Deer Rebels on Sunday.

    Helgesen, Virtanen and Tambellini combined for nine points to help the Hitmen (13-9-3) avenge a 4-0 loss they suffered the night before in Red Deer to the Rebels (13-10-3).

    “I think we’re just using our speed and our size to our advantage,” said Helgesen, who led the way with two goals and an assist in a first-star performance. “All three of us, when we use our speed and our size — getting pucks in, retrieving them and outmuscling everyone down low — it opens up areas to score.”

    Tambellini, who centres the line, scored his team-leading 14th goal of the season and added a pair of assists in Sunday’s win over the Rebels in front of 6,329 fans at the Saddledome.

    “I think we’re starting to click,” he said. “Playing together for a lot of games here, I think we’re finally starting to find some chemistry. I think it’s all about communication. We’re good buddies on and off the ice, so it’s easy that way.”

    Virtanen was happy that he and his linemates were able to respond with a better effort against the Rebels one night after being blanked.

    “Last night we didn’t do that as well and tonight we talked about it and came out strong and we’re going to have to do that from here on out,” said Virtanen, who had a point per period as he scored in the first before adding assists in the second and third. “I think we played really well as a team.”

    Hitmen coach Mark French was pleased to see Helgesen, Tambellini and Virtanen lead the way less than 24 hours after Saturday’s setback in Red Deer.

    “It was nice to see the leaders step up and define the game,” said French, who added some extra praise for Helgesen’s effort. “You want your captain at times to step up and take the team by the collar and lead them and I think Kenton did that tonight.”

    Helgesen had even more reason to celebrate after recording the 100th career of his WHL career on his first goal in the second period that pulled the Hitmen into a 2-2 tie.

    “I was pretty happy to get that,” said Helgesen, who also netted the game-winning goal a short time later. “It’s a pretty cool feeling to get that milestone and have that puck, so I’m keeping that one.”

    After the milestone moment, Tambellini picked up the puck and presented it to his friend and linemate after the win.

    “We were bugging him about it that he hadn’t got it quick enough,” joked Tambellini, before adding, “No, it’s great for him and we’re happy for him.”

    Travis Sanheim also had a goal and two helpers for the Hitmen, Pavel Karnaukhov scored once, while Ben Thomas chipped in with a pair of assists.

    Playing in his third game in three nights, Hitmen goalie Mack Shields made 20 saves to record the win.

    Conner Bleackley and Tyler Sandhu scored for the Rebels, who held leads of 1-0 and 2-1 before the Hitmen reeled off five unanswered goals.

    One night after making 23 saves to record his first WHL shutout, Red Deer goalie Rylan Toth had a rough outing in the rematch against Calgary.

    Toth stopped 15 of 20 shots he faced before being relieved by Taz Burman early in the third period. Burman went on to make four saves in a relief appearance.

    The Hitmen will continue their four-game homestand on Wednesday (7 p.m.) when they welcome the Prince Albert Raiders to the ’Dome.

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