By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
It wasn’t that long ago when defenceman Alex Petrovic and the Red Deer Rebels didn’t know Patrik Bartosak or anything about him.
That’s not the case these days.
Bartosak, an 18-year-old freshman goaltender from Koprivnice, Czech Republic, stopped 24 shots Friday afternoon to lead the Rebels to a 5-3 WHL victory over the Kamloops Blazers before 4,496 fans at Interior Savings Centre.
The Blazers (12-6-0) now have lost three of their last four games. They are back in action tonight, this time against the Edmonton Oil Kings. The puck drops at 7 o’clock.
Bartosak, now 13-3-0, had to be especially sharp in the first period because, although he faced only nine shots, the Blazers owned the puck for the first 14 minutes.
“Our goal was to come out hard because we knew they were going to come out hard,” said Petrovic, a 6-foot-4 veteran who was a horse on Red Deer’s back end. “We didn’t do that but we weathered the storm well and Patrik played unreal in net. He saved us.”
The Blazers opened the game with a relentless forecheck and dictated play from below the faceoff dots in the Red Deer zone. The home side got one goal, forward Logan McVeigh redirecting Josh Caron’s shot from the point at 8:38.
“That’s the kind of start we want . . . that’s the kind of game we want to establish for 60 minutes,” said Kamloops centre Chase Schaber.
“We needed one more goal,” offered Kamloops winger Dylan Willick. “If we had made it 2-0 . . .”
That wasn’t to be, though. And when the Blazers took two minor penalties — Schaber roughed up defenceman Aaron Borejko and Austin Madaisky kneed forward Daulton Siwak — in the opening period’s final five minutes, it allowed Red Deer to catch its breath.
“Our power play has been great all year,” Petrovic said. “We didn’t score on it but we had some chances. It gave us some momentum, some energy.”
The Rebels also got some energy at 3:18 of the second period when Schaber, who was being penalized for a check from behind on Adam Kambeitz, fought with Locke Muller, a 6-foot-2, 190-pounder from St. Paul, Alta.
Muller caught Schaber with a hard punch to the chin that left the Blazers captain more than a little wobbly.
“It was just a hockey fight,” Schaber said. “It was a good punch by him. He’s a big boy. He caught me with one. I got back up . . . just the way it goes sometimes.”
Schaber went to the dressing room before being cleared to return by Dr. Sven Kipp. But Schaber was nowhere near the player he had been in the first period, and the Blazers weren’t nearly the same team.
And it was Kambeitz who would score the winning goal, breaking a 3-3 tie at 13:32 of the third period, stuffing the puck between the post and goaltender Cole Cheveldave, who finished with 18 saves.
The teams had gone into the third period at 2-2, John Persson and Cory Millette having given Red Deer a 2-1 lead, only to have centre Colin Smith pull the Blazers even.
Daulton Siwak gave the Rebels a 3-2 lead at 9:34 of the third period. But it didn’t last as crowd favourite Ryan Hanes banged home a Chase Souto rebound just 15 seconds later.
But, as things turned out, that only set the stage for Kambeitz, who scored his ninth of the season. Winger Turner Elson put it away with an empty-netter.
“We’re a team that can bounce back,” Kamloops head coach Guy Charron said. “We work hard. We were coming back in the third period. I thought we played well.”
Then, alluding to a 4-2 loss in Red Deer on Oct. 19, he added: “We lost the same way we lost in Red Deer. We made mistakes at the wrong time. We expected (Cheveldave) to save us . . . he’s been playing so well.
“But he’s going to have a mediocre or average night and tonight was an average night.”
That wasn’t the case with Bartosak, who has stepped in nicely for Darcy Kuemper, who played in 62 games as a 20-year-old last season.
“You know,” Petrovic said of Bartosak, “I had no idea who he was. But he’s been unreal. He’s an amazing kid. He’s very competitive and fits in well with this group.”
If Bartosak keeps playing as well as this, one thing is for certain — he’ll never have to buy lunch in Red Deer, again.
JUST NOTES: The Rebels were 0-for-5 on the power play, while the Blazers went 0-for-2. . . . Kamloops RW J.T. Barnett raised his arms, thinking he had scored at 6:30 of the second period, but the puck apparently hit a post. “I thought it went in but I don’t know,” Barnett said. “I don;t know why they didn’t review it.” . . . Look for the Blazers to start G Cam Lanigan (5-3-0) tonight against Edmonton. . . . The Daily News’ Three Stars: 1. Petrovic: big-time player; 2. Persson: a real threat; 3. F Tim Bozon, Kamloops: Solid again. . . . With the Coquihalla closed at Merritt, the Rebels took No. 8 Highway across to the Trans-Canada Highway in order to get to Tsawwassen, where they will catch the ferry to Sidney by the Sea in the morning. The Rebels are to meet the Royals in Victoria tonight and Sunday. . . . F Ryan Gropp of Kamloops played his first BCHL game last night and scored once to help the Penticton Vees to a 7-1 victory over the host Trail Smoke Eaters. Gropp, 15, was selected sixth overall by the Seattle Thunderbirds in the WHL’s 2011 bantam draft. He attends the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Trail and was recalled by the Vees for last night’s game.
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