Rob Wallator/CHL Images

Polei’s OT winner sends Rebels to semi-finals

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The 2016 MasterCard Memorial Cup got its first taste of overtime and is often the case, the victory was sweet and the defeat bitter.

Evan Polei sent the Red Deer Rebels to Friday’s MasterCard Memorial Cup Semi-Finals on a feed from linemate Conner Bleackley 3:50 into overtime, beating a sprawled out Jordan Papirny to eliminate the WHL champion Brandon Wheat Kings with a 2-1 victory.

The win marks redemption for the Rebels, who were ousted from the WHL’s Eastern Conference Finals by Brandon in five games a month ago.

Rebels goaltender Rylan Toth earned second star honours, turning heads with a 32-save performance while keeping his team in a closely matched contest.

The WHL champion Wheat Kings finish their MasterCard Memorial Cup with a record of 0-2-1, scoring five goals-for while surrendering 16 over the three games.

The two clubs felt each other out through the first frame as Red Deer outshot Brandon 8-7.

Jordan Papirny provided the period’s biggest save, denying Grayson Pawlenchuk with a blocker save on a breakaway chance inside the final five minutes.

Red Deer’s Rylan Toth was steady when called upon, helping the Rebels kill off a late penalty.

Papirny stood tall early in the second, denying another Red Deer breakaway opportunity off the stick of Jeff de Wit before Toth responded with a pad save off John Quenneville in the slot.

The Wheat Kings finally broke through just beyond the midway point of the second as overage sniper Tim McGauley scooped up a loose puck inside the Red Deer blueline before snapping a wrister over the shoulder of Toth from the top of the circle.

Papirny would preserve the Brandon lead with just over three minutes remaining, flashing the leather on Bleackley who had a point-blank scoring opportunity from the hash marks.

A pair of big saves from Toth off Quenneville held the Rebels within a goal headed to the second intermission as Brandon outshot Red Deer 21-18 through 40 minutes.

The Wheat Kings pressed for a second goal early in the third frame, but Toth stood tall, giving the Rebels a chance to tie things up which they did at 14:55.

St. Louis Blues prospect Adam Musil forced his way into the slot, swatting a rolling puck past Papirny with assists going to Haydn Fleury and Kayle Doetzel as the ENMAX Centrium erupted.

The capacity crowd was treated to a tense final five minutes before time expired, sending things off to overtime for the first time at the 2016 MasterCard Memorial Cup.

Brandon outshot Red Deer 33-29 in regulation as both goaltenders were playing at the top of their game.

It took just 3:50 for Red Deer to put an end to things, punching their ticket to the MasterCard Memorial Cup Semi-Final on Polei’s winner.

The Rebels will face the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies for a chance to advance to Sunday’s MasterCard Memorial Cup Final.

Friday’s action gets underway at 6:00pm MT/8:00pm ET, a game that can be seen live across the country on Sportsnet and TVA Sports 2.