Dan Mulhausen

RED DEER, AB – Apparently, highly-touted defensive prospect Mathew Dumba is ambidextrous, who showcased the offensive side of his game while continuing the Americans’ frustrations inside the Enmax Centrium.

Trailing 2-0 entering the third period, the Red Deer Rebels (22-21-1-4, 49 pts) stormed back to force overtime before Dumba won it just 38 seconds into the extra session, claiming a 3-2 win over the visiting Tri-City Americans (35-11-1-1, 72 pts) in front of 4,781 fans. With the win, the Rebels picked up their third win in their last four games, as they climbed to within two points of the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, the Americans lost for just the second time all season when leading after two periods and fell to 4-7-3-1 all-time in Red Deer, winning just once in their last 10 trips in the Enmax Centrium.

Coming off an emotional overtime win in Edmonton on Wednesday, the Americans were able to parlay that into a solid first period in Red Deer. And, at the 8:04 mark of the first period, the Tri-City was able to take the 1-0 lead. One second after their first power play expired, Adam Hughesman fed Connor Rankin backdoor, who beat Deven Dubyk inside the left post for his 13th goal of the season.

Then, just over six minutes into the second period, defenseman Zachary Yuen jumped into the play to clean up a Nathan MacMaster rebound, giving Tri-City a 2-goal lead which it held until the third period.

But, coming out of the second intermission, the Rebels changed up their defensive strategy and appeared to catch the Americans off guard, forcing several turnovers, including two that led directly to goals. Only 4:21 into the third, an errant Tri-City clearing pass was cut off by Charles Inglis, who passed it off to Turner Elson. Elson then fed John Persson in the slot who, despite being in tight on Eric Comrie, made a great move to beat the young goaltender and pull the Rebels to within one.

Then, just past the midway point of the period, Red Deer took advantage of another Tri-City turnover to tie the game at 2. Taking a pass from Cory Millette, Dumba was able to knock back his own rebound for his first of two on the night.

For the remainder of the regulation, Dubyk made several key saves to keep the game tied, although arguably none bigger than a save made on Patrick Holland in the waning minutes. After combining for 29 shots in the third period and 75 through regulation, the game would be decided in overtime.

Less than a minute into the 4-on-4, and on the first shot, Dumba found himself alone deep inside the Tri-City zone, then let a shot go that beat Comrie over his glove for the winner. Although Dumba’s shot immediately bounced back out into the slot, video replay later confirmed the ruling on the ice that the puck fully crossed the goal line, capping the Rebels’ rally.

It was a rough way to end an otherwise impressive night for Comrie, who finished with a career-best 35 saves on a season-high 38 shots in the loss. It also marked the first time this season that the 16-year-old netminder dropped consecutive starts. Meanwhile, Dubyk collected 36 saves, including 14 in the third period, to pick up win #8 on the year. Dubyk also won back-to-back games for the first time since the end of September. Both teams finished the night 0-for-3 on the power play.

After suffering their first loss against the Central Division this season (4-0-1-0), Tri-City will look to rebound on Sunday, January 29 against the suddenly red hot Calgary Hitmen (29-17-2-1). Game time is 3:00 p.m. (PST) at Scotiabank Saddledome. The Hitmen, whose roster currently features 4 ex-Americans, come in having won four straight and 12 of their last 13. Meanwhile, Tri-City will be aiming for their league-leading 17th road win of the season while playing their first game inside the Saddledome since their series-clinching Game 5 loss in the 2010 WHL Finals. Fans can catch all the action live, via WHL Live, at Kimo’s, the Americans’ home away from home, starting at 3:00 p.m. (PST). The game will also be broadcast live on NewsTalk 870 AM, starting with the Sterling Savings Bank Warm-up Show at 2:45 p.m. (PST).

Applebee’s 3 Stars:

1, Mathew Dumba, Red Deer

2, Patrick Holland, Tri-City

3, Deven Dubyk, Red Deer