Rebels battle back but can’t overcome large deficit
Americans 8 Rebels 4
KENNEWICK, Was. — The Red Deer Rebels came up well short in the end but at least put a bit of fear into the Tri-City Americans Wednesday.
The Rebels trailed 4-0 after one period and were down 6-0 in the middle frame before scoring the next four goals.
However, it was all in vain as the Americans potted a pair of late markers to skate off with an 8-4 WHL victory before a sparse gathering of 2,493 at the Toyota Center.
“We got ourselves into a big hole,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter.
The Americans needed just 77 seconds to open the scoring as Morgan Geekie beat Rebels netminder Lasse Petersen with a sharp-angle shot from the right circle.
Sutter wasted no time in expressing his displeasure with the goal, lifting Petersen at that point and inserting Riley Lamb.
All the hosts did through the remainder of the opening frame was put three more pucks past Lamb, who faced eight shots in the period and finished the night with 26 saves, one less than Tri-City stopper Rylan Parenteau.
Jusso Valimaki made it 2-0 5:25 into the contest when his shot was blocked by Lamb, but trickled over the goal line.
Then, with the Rebels on the power play, Brett Leason swiped the puck from Rebels defenceman Colton Bobyk at the Tri-City blueline, raced in alone and notched his fourth goal of the season.
With Bobyk off for slashing, Jordan Topping added a man-advantage marker in the final minute of the frame, and Leason and Dylan Coughlin upped the count to 6-0 early in the second period.
Leason scored on a redirect from in close and Coughlin drove a power-play slapshot from the top of the left circle past Lamb.
“We weren’t good in our zone, but we took two bad penalties,” said Sutter. “Bobyk’s penalty was bad and Roy’s penalty was bad. That’s two bad penalties and they scored two power-play goals on us.”
The Rebels refused to go quietly, however, and Brandon Hagel and Akash Bains scored just over three minutes apart late in the period to cut the deficit to 6-2.
Hagel one-timed a cross-crease feed from Michael Spacek with the Rebels on the power play at 14:52, and Bains lifted a rebound over Parenteau at 18:21.
The visitors continued to press in the third period, getting another power-play tally from defenceman Jared Freadrich on a low point shot, and reducing Tri-City’s lead to two goals on Matthew Campese’s second of the season, at 6:58 from a scramble.
Americans head coach Mike Williamson called a timeout at that point and Lamb came up with a big stop on Kyle Olson seconds later to preserve the Rebels’ momentum. But Parker AuCoin connected with a one-timer from the low slot at 12:37 and Nolan Yaremko added a late short-handed goal to seal the deal.
“They scored two short-handed goals and two power-play goals and we didn’t get great goaltending,” said Sutter. “You look at the score clock halfway through the first period and we’re outshooting them yet we’re down 2-0.
“A lot of guys played much better here tonight than they did last night (in a 4-1 loss at Seattle), but there are still some guys, and not our young kids but some of our older guys, who have to play the game the right way and defend the right way.
“If they don’t want to then it’s hard to play them.”
The Rebels continue their five-game road trip with a Friday engagement with the Portland Winterhawks. Red Deer has lost five straight and six of the last seven games and Calgary and Saskatoon are closing fast in the race for the final playoff berths.
“We have to be better fundamentally,” said Sutter. “The kids are very fragile right now. It seems that every little mistake they make ends up in our net.”
In short, the Rebels have to get back on the winning track, and soon.
“We need to get some stellar goaltending, like we did against Regina,” said Sutter, in reference to Lamb’s 47-save performance in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Pats Saturday. “We haven’t had that on this trip yet.”
The Rebels also have to re-ignite the passion in their game.
“We have to find some urgency and start playing the right way,” said Sutter. “We’ve harped on our defensive zone coverage all year and if you’re not defending in the back half of the season you’re going to get destroyed.
“We have to take pride in it. We didn’t have enough guys who took it seriously enough earlier and now they’re getting burned. You’re seeing guys who are minus-3 and minus-4 in games now because there’s not enough pride in defending.”
Just notes: Rebels rookie defenceman Jacob Herauf picked up a pair of assists Wednesday, as did Spacek. Hagel also collected a helper to give him two points on the evening . . . The three stars were (1) Leason, (2) Geekie and (3) Bains.