Gianluca Esteves and Ryan Solomon had two points each to lead the Rebels to another hard fought win and complete a weekend sweep over the visiting Johnstown Tomahawks.
Captain Dom Garcia opened the scoring for the Rebels. Solomon started the play behind his own net. He passed the puck up to Esteves at the point who fed Andrew Bellant up in the neutral zone. Bellant crossed over the Johnstown blue line and passed the puck to Garcia on his left. Garcia took a wrist shot at the top of the circle that hit the post and went behind Tomahawks’ goalie Drew Hotte to give the Rebels a 1 – 0 lead with 5:25 remaining in the first period. It was Garcia’s eleventh goal on the season.
With forty five seconds remaining in the opening period Solomon had the puck at the far side point. He started to skate to his left and then passed the puck to Esteves who was at the top of the faceoff circle. Esteves cut across the high slot and took a wrist shot that was redirected by Drew Blackmun passed Hotte to put the Rebels up 2 – 0.
Like every quality championship boxing match, the opponent punches back. And so did the Tomahawks.
After Esteves won the draw deep inside his own zone, the puck went to Justin Smith. As Smith tried to move to his right to bring the puck behind the net to set up, Dalton Hunter stripped him of the puck and passed it to Donovan Ott who was in the slot. Ott took a wrist shot that beat Mareks Mitens long side to cut the Rebels lead in half with 6:46 remaining in the second period.
The Tomahawks looked to tie the game as it entered the third period. The visitors would do it only 3:53 into the last stanza. As Brennan Kapcheck went to set up the play deep inside his far side corner on a delayed offside, he bounced the puck high off the glass that was intercepted by Nick Bruce. Bruce skated down low and fed a pass to Ott in the slot and took a wrist shot that beat Mitens to tie the game. It was Ott’s second goal of the game and twenty fourth on the season.
With four minutes remaining in the game Esteves would become the hero. Kolby Vegara had the puck deep inside his own zone. He sent a pass up the far side boards to Aaron Maguyon. As Maguyon had the puck at the bottom of the faceoff circle, he sent a pass to a wide open Esteves in the slot who beat Hotte through the five hole to give the Rebels a 3 – 2 lead. It was Esteves twelfth goal on the season.
By completing the weekend sweep over the Tomahawks, the Rebels extended their lead in the East Division over the second place team by eight points, although Johnstown does have two games in hand.
Mitens stopped 28 of 30 shots while Hotte turned aside 15 of 18. Click here for the box score.
The Rebels now will play home and home series against the Northeast Generals before the Tomahawks return to IceWorks on March 3 and 4.