Rockets 5 Rebels 2
KELOWNA — Several of the Red Deer Rebels’ more experienced players should be well rested by the time the team resumes its current WHL road trip Tuesday versus the Victoria Royals.
Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter stapled a good number of his so-called best skaters to the bench for the majority of the second half of Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the Kelowna Rockets, Red Deer’s sixth consecutive defeat.
“A lot of guys didn’t play the last half of the game tonight, some of our top players, because they just weren’t at the level we need them to be at,” said Sutter. “With 10 minutes left in the second period, about seven guys never got another shift. We played seven or eight forwards and five defencemen the rest of the game.”
Normally, such a decision would almost certainly hurt the Rebels’ chances of scraping out a victory, but already behind 4-1 with the game 29 minutes old, it’s unlikely they would stage a successful rally even with all hands on deck.
Discipline, or rather a lack of, was another problem for the visitors Saturday. Shoddy special teams play also played a role in the outcome.
The Rebels were penalized twice in the first five minutes of the contest and the Rockets cashed in on both occasions. Dillon Dube struck a mere 1:54 in, his volley from the left circle catching the far corner behind netminder Ethan Anders, and Liam Kindree connected three minutes later, beating Anders through the wickets from close range.
Red Deer got one back before the period ended when Jared Dmytriw, from the high slot, directed a shot through a crowd and by goalie James Porter.
The Rebels held an 11-7 edge in shots through the first frame, but then came a disastrous middle period in which they were outshot 16-4 and outscored 3-0.
Defenceman James Hilsendager potted a third power-play tally at 8:41 of the second stanza, his one-timer from the point getting past Anders.
Sutter replaced Anders with Riley Lamb — just back from a preseason injury — at that point and the hosts scored on their very next shot, off the stick of Braydyn Chizen from 10 feet out.
“Our goaltending wasn’t where it needed to be at all in the first two periods. They scored four goals on 14 shots,” said Sutter. “But Andy (Anders) has been really good for us this season, so that’s where the rest of your group has to step up.”
Kole Lind notched the Rockets’ final goal of the evening three minutes prior to the second intermission.
As was the case the night before in a 3-2 loss at Kamloops, the Rebels emerged from a shaky second period to more than hold their own in the third.
The Rebels, in fact, outshot their guests 14-9 in the final 20 minutes and got the game’s final goal off a long wrist shot from defenceman Carson Sass that deflected off a Kelowna skate.
While the Rockets were a nifty 50 per cent efficient on the power play (three-for-six), the Rebels — for a second consecutive game — were zero-for-five with a man advantage.
“We took some bad penalties and got down 2-0 right way. And again, our power play wasn’t very good tonight,” said Sutter. “We had opportunities when it was a 2-1 game, but we never accomplished anything with them.
“Again, it’s due to playing perimeter hockey and your best players not being your best players.”
Regarding the benchings, Sutter felt he had no choice but to make a practical statement to certain players.
“You get to the point where you’re showing them, you’re talking to them, you’re going through everything, and you’re not getting a response,” he said. “I told them this morning that some guys will be benched, that we can’t carry on like this.
“We’re not getting the effort we need to have as far as our team play. Guys are continuing to struggle and not fighting through it. They’re looking for an easier way to get out of it and it’s not going to happen that way.”
That being said . . .
“I have to give credit to the guys who did play (the second half of the game),” said Sutter. “They played hard and competed the last half of the game and did a good job in the third period.”
Anders stopped 10 of the 13 shots he faced, while Lamb stopped 17 of 19 in front of 5,008 fans at Prospera Place. Porter finished with 27 saves.
Rockets 5 Rebels 2