Rebels fall short in overtime once again; Pratt dealt to Regina
Raiders 2 Rebels 1 (OT)
PRINCE ALBERT — The Red Deer Rebels’ lack of good fortune in extra-time WHL games this season has been nothing short of mind-boggling.
For the ninth consecutive time, the Rebels came out on the short end of a contest that exceeded 60 minutes, dropping a 2-1 overtime decision Saturday to the Prince Albert Raiders.
This, after failing to be credited with a single shot in the opening period, then battling back to more than hold their own in the second and third frames and creating an incredible scoring chance in the first minute of overtime.
Alex Morozoff, in just his second game with the Rebels, fed Reese Johnson on a two-on-one break in the three-on-three extra frame, but the veteran forward couldn’t get the puck past netminder Curtis Meger.
Less than a minute later, Raiders newcomer Kolby McDonald beat Rebels stopper Ethan Anders with a rising slapshot from the top of the left circle, delighting most of the 1,901 fans at the Art Hauser Centre.
The goal came with Rebels forwards Grayson Pawlenchuk and Mason McCarty caught up ice.
“We had a chance, a two-on-one. You have to capitalize on it,” said Red Deer GM/head coach Brent Sutter.
“Then we made the mistake where both Pawly and Carts get on the wrong side of the puck in the offensive zone. They get a three-on-one break and we lose coverage in our own zone.”
The outcome took some of the shine off an otherwise impressive outing — through the final 41 minutes — by the fresh-faced Rebels, who got even younger earlier in the day when Sutter dealt 18-year-old forward Austin Pratt to the Regina Pats.
Anders was extra sharp in the first period when he turned aside all 17 shots he faced. The Rebels weren’t credited with a shot, although River Fahey had one of the better scoring opportunities but was poke-checked by Meger while attempting a wide deke from close range.
The second and third stanzas featured a faster, more intense Rebels squad.
“After the first period we got our legs going, started skating,” said Sutter. “In the first period we stood around a lot. We certainly played better in the second and third and in the overtime when we had the first quality scoring chance.”
Raiders defenceman Vojtech Budik snapped a scoreless tie in the first minute of the second period, moving in from the point and scoring from the low slot.
Johnson pulled the visitors even in the final minute of the frame, breaking down the left boards and catching the far corner of the net from his off wing.
And that was it for scoring until McDonald, acquired earlier in the day from the Prince George Cougars, sealed the deal in overtime.
Anders, stellar from start to finish, made 32 saves, while Meger stopped 17 shots.
The Rebels’ younger set, including 16-year-olds Morozoff, Fahey, Justin Svenson and Arshdeep Bains, to a man held their own against their mostly older counterparts.
“They’re playing in different situations and for the most part they’re finding their way through it all,” said Sutter. “The biggest thing is they’re working and competing.”
While the Raiders’ lineup was bolstered by point-per-game players McDonald and Regan Nagy, acquired this week from the Victoria Royals, the Rebels were minus the services of hard-shooting sniper Kristian Reichel.
Reichel was with the team Saturday after flying from Buffalo to Saskatoon following his appearance with the Czech Republic team in the world juniors.
“But I decided not to dress him. It would have been his fourth game in five nights and he’d come all the way from Buffalo with a flight delay,” said Sutter.
Reichel will be in the Red Deer lineup Sunday for an afternoon engagement with the Swift Current Broncos, the third and final game of a weekend road trip.
Another of the Rebels’ top forwards, Brandon Hagel, is expected back next weekend after being out six weeks with an upper body injury.
Pratt dealt to Regina
With the Rebels kick starting a rebuild, Sutter felt it was best to find a better fit for forward Austin Pratt.
As a result, he traded the Lakeville, Minn., native to the 2018 Memorial Cup host Pats in exchange for a third round pick in the 2019 WHL bantam draft.
Pratt, who turns 19 in July, never got untracked this season — his third in Red Deer — after suffering through a poor second half of the 2016-17 campaign and being overlooked in last June’s NHL draft.
“He’s had a tough first half of the season coming off a year when he didn’t get drafted and didn’t get a chance to go to an NHL prospects camp or an NHL camp in the fall,” said Sutter.
“He was upset about that and he needed to come back and have a good start to the year, and he fought it a bit.”
With eight forwards 17 years and younger on his roster and the intention that each of them will get reasonably quality minutes moving forward, Sutter didn’t see any room for Pratt, at least not in a favourable role.
“The reality is we have all these young kids here and we just felt we might have a disgruntled 18-year-old who would be playing on our third or fourth line,” said the Rebels boss.
With Bains, Morozoff, Josh Tarzwell, Austin Schellenberg and Chris Douglas all competing for top-nine minutes and Johnson, McCarty, Reichel, Pawlenchuk and Hagel already entrenched as top-six players, Pratt would have been short on ice time.
“He would probably be in tough with where he wanted to fit in and with what we’re trying to do,” said Sutter. “We just felt a trade was best for him.
“I thought it would be a good situation for him to have an opportunity to play in a Memorial Cup. He didn’t have the opportunity to play in the tournament when we hosted in 2016.
“I thought it would be good for him and his exposure and hopefully he can help Regina. It’s a good move for Pratter and allows us to keep playing the kids where we see them fitting in here.”