Blazers 3 Rebels 2
KAMLOOPS — It’s not like the Red Deer Rebels are being embarrassed during this difficult stretch of their Western Hockey League season.
Friday’s 3-2 setback at the hands of the Kamloops Blazers was the Rebels’ fifth consecutive loss. But they’ve dropped those five games by a total of seven goals, a reminder of the fine line between winning and losing.
“We’re not doing enough to find a way to win. We’re doing enough to find ways to lose,” said GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “Some bad penalties, turnovers . . . stuff we’ve talked about.”
The Rebels were strong out of the gate Friday, and in fact were up 8-0 on the shot clock in the early going.
But the Blazers notched the only goal of the period when Jermaine Loewen pounced on a turnover at the Kamloops blueline, broke in alone and beat netminder Ethan Anders through the wickets two minutes before the intermission.
After being outshot 12-10 in the first 20 minutes, the hosts owned the majority of the middle frame, outshooting the visitors 16-9.
“Our first 10 minutes of the game were fine, but the next 10 minutes and the second period weren’t very good,” said Sutter. “We got out-worked and our forwards weren’t doing enough to generate scoring chances.
“When they get like that they start getting frustrated and taking penalties.”
The lone bright spot of the second period for the Rebels was Jared Dmytriw’s tying goal at 3:58. The 19-year-old forward pushed the puck down the right boards in the Kamloops zone and beat goaltender Dylan Garand with a sharp-angle shot from the bottom of the circle.
The Blazers jumped back in front just over seven minutes later when defenceman Joe Gatenby connected from the high slot — his shot glancing off the post and in — with the home side enjoying a two-man advantage.
“When you don’t show enough discipline and don’t stay with your game, it just kills you,” said Sutter.
The Rebels were better in the third period but couldn’t prevent a third Kamloops goal, the eventual winner courtesy of Nick Chyzowski at the 4:43 mark.
Red Deer pushed late and pulled to within one on Kristian Reichel’s backhand marker with 16 seconds remaining. Too little, too late.
Anders was his usual steady self in the Rebels’ net, turning aside 29 shots.
“Your goalie gives you a chance to win the hockey game and you don’t take advantage of it,” said Sutter.
With starting netminder Dylan Ferguson with the Vegas Golden Knights on an emergency basis due to injuries, the Blazers decided to go with Garand, a 15-year-old call-up from the Delta Hockey Academy prep team.
The Blazers’ third-round pick in last spring’s WHL bantam draft was selected as the game’s first star for his 31-save performance, but he saw the vast majority of the shots aimed his way and seldom had to worry about a rebound.
“We didn’t get second and third shots at him because we didn’t have traffic,” said Sutter. “We made a 15-year-old look good in net. Not to knock their goalie, but you have to make it tough on goalies.”
The Rebels continue their five-game B.C. trip with a Saturday date with the Kelowna Rockets and have to break out of their slump before losing becomes a bad habit.
“Somehow we have to get them (players) through this, because it’s just a mindset, a mental thing with the group,” said Sutter. “Again, it starts with your best players. Your 19- and 20-year-olds need to be better. There has to be more urgency.”
Notable: The Blazers swept the post-game accolades, with Quinn Benjafield, who set up Chyzowski’s goal, and Chyzowski named second and third stars. . . Red Deer was zero-for-five on the power play; Kamloops was one-for-six . . . Attendance at the Sandman Centre was 3,515.
Blazers 3 Rebels 2