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DeBrusk enjoying new home in Red Deer

Bruins prospect has three points in Memorial Cup defeat of Rouyn-Noranda

by Derek Van Diest / Correspondent

RED DEER, Alberta -- Left wing Jake DeBrusk of Red Deer of the Western Hockey League said he does not consider himself a hired gun, but was excited at the prospect of playing in the 2016 Memorial Cup when acquired in a trade from Swift Current in December. 

The first-round pick of the Boston Bruins (No. 14) in the 2015 NHL Draft, DeBrusk was one of a number of players acquired by Red Deer when it prepared to host the Memorial Cup. 

DeBrusk, 19, had a goal and had two assists for Red Deer in a 5-2 win against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League on Sunday.

"I was in Swift Current for a while," DeBrusk said. "I was really attached and it was tough to leave there and leave teammates and things like that. But that's exactly what I thought of when I was traded here, that I was going to get the chance to play in the Memorial Cup, and I was excited to be part of the deal and come to Red Deer. Since I've been here that's all I've been thinking about, especially since we got knocked out in the third round of the [WHL] playoffs. We're fortunate enough to have a second chance and that's the way we're looking at. We believe in the group that we have here."

Red Deer lost its opening game of the tournament 6-2 against Ontario Hockey League champion London Knights on Friday. 

They wanted a strong bounce-back performance against Rouyn-Noranda, but fell behind 2-0 eight minutes into the first period. 

Coach Brent Sutter called a timeout after Rouyn-Noranda's second goal and demanded a stronger effort from his team.

"I told them I loved them and if they go out and play well and win the game I'll love them even more," Sutter said. "We just had to get playing like we can play and don't let the emotion of what's going on in the game allow it to be a negative impact for us. Get back to playing how we can, get back to playing the way we have to play."

Video: Chatting with Brent Sutter of the Red Deer Rebels

Red Deer responded with five consecutive goals. Evan Polei scored at 11:07 of the first to get the Rebels on the board. Then DeBrusk helped tie the game when he stole a puck at center ice, carried it down the right wing and centered for Adam Helewka (San Jose Sharks), who scored 40 seconds into the second period to make it 2-2.

At 4:46 of the second DeBrusk got to the front of the net and redirected a point shot by Ivan Nikolishin past goalie Chase Marchand for what turned into the game-winner. 

DeBrusk set up Helewka for a power-play goal at 8:50 of the second to push Red Deer's lead to 4-2. Haydn Fleury (Carolina Hurricanes) closed the scoring with a power-play goal at 16:56 of the third period. 

"He [Sutter] said to stick with the process," DeBrusk said. "We weren't playing necessarily not too bad but we gave them two chances and they scored. He said stay the course, play the Red Deer style and we'll get our chances. There were tons of penalties in this game for both teams and I thought we did a better job on special teams. We capitalized and just played our game."

Sutter's motivational tactic in the first period was typical of his coaching style. In addition to 18 seasons as an NHL player, he also coached the New Jersey Devils and Calgary Flames, during which he earned a reputation for being demanding on his players. 

"He [Sutter] has been awesome ever since I've been here and I've really felt comfortable since I've been [with Red Deer]," DeBrusk said. "The biggest thing is that he's probably a little hard on guys here and there but it works. He means well and you know what he expects. If you do what he expects, you won't have too many problems."

Red Deer traded a player and two draft picks for DeBrusk on Dec. 27, and he had 12 goals and 39 points in 37 regular-season games with Red Deer and eight goals and 17 points in 17 playoff games. He wasn't a factor in the tournament-opening loss to London, but he excelled Sunday on a line with two players Red Deer acquired in January trades, Helewka and center Luke Philp.

"I've had them together at different points of the year since they all came to our team and got through their health issues," Sutter said. "I just thought the way they controlled the pace and had the puck, they're offensive-type guys and they need to have the puck on their stick to make plays. I thought they were really intelligent with the puck. Their puck-possession ratio was very good and I thought they did a good job in their own zone. When they got the puck they got going with quickness and we had speed when we were attacking the offensive blue line."

Red Deer will play its final round-robin game against Brandon, the WHL champion, on Wednesday. Brandon eliminated Red Deer in five games in the third round of the WHL playoffs. 


What we learned: Red Deer demonstrated it belongs among the best teams in the Canadian Hockey League by dominating Rouyn-Noranda. The Rebels scored five unanswered goals after falling behind 2-0 in the first period to even their record to 1-1 in the tournament. 

Key moment: After falling behind 2-0 at the 8:00 mark of the first period, Sutter called a timeout and demanded his players put in a stronger effort. The response was five straight goals. 

Player of the game: DeBrusk. The Bruins draft pick had a goal, two assists and seven shots on goal. He was also a force physically in the win. 

Quotable: "It's not the first time we've played back-to-back games. I think we made a couple of mistakes and that changed the way we played after." -- Rouyn-Noranda coach Gilles Bouchard 

Monday: Brandon vs. London (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVA Sports 2)

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