Rebels lose to Oil Kings via fluke goal with mere seconds remaining
Oil Kings 4 Rebels 3
EDMONTON — A fluke goal sealed the Red Deer Rebels’ fate Saturday afternoon, but Brent Sutter wasn’t buying the notion that the unfortunate incident was the most glaring factor in a 4-3 WHL loss to the Edmonton Oil Kings.
The Rebels GM/head coach agreed that Trey-Fix Wolansky’s goal with 7.6 seconds remaining in the game was a stroke of bad fortune for his club, however . . .
“We did a lot of things today that we haven’t been doing and that hurt us,” he said. “Just the type of goals we gave up, the mistakes we made . . . we did enough things here today to cost us.”
The Rebels’ fate appeared to be decided when forward Alex Morozoff was assessed a tripping penalty with 2:09 remaining and the Oil Kings up 3-2.
But just 30 seconds after Morozoff stepped into the penalty box, Reese Johnson potted a short-handed goal when he rushed down the right wing and placed a shot over the glove of Edmonton netminder Josh Dechaine.
But with the infraction just freshly served, Colton Kehler directed a shot toward the Red Deer net that deflected off the skate of Fix-Wolansky and past goalie Ethan Anders.
“You’d hope to get a point out of this anyway, but we lost coverage in our zone,” said Sutter, who felt the deciding goal could have been prevented if a defenceman had tied up Fix-Wolansky just outside the crease.
“It was a bang-bang play. We just lost our focus.”
Anders suffered from a lack of concentration on Edmonton’s first goal, the first of the game at 3:45 of the second period. The rookie goaltender wandered into the corner to play the puck, then passed it up the ice and directly on to the stick of Liam Keeler, who fired it into an empty net.
“That was a bad play by Andy,” said Sutter. “A goalie never skates into the corner to get the puck, then he throws it up the middle of the ice.
“It was just a loss of focus, not a smart play on his part at all.”
The short-handed tally held up until Rebels rookie forward Austin Schellenberg notched his second goal of the season 3:34 into the final frame.
Just 23 seconds after Schellenberg connected from a scramble, Brandon Cutler pushed the Rebels in front with his second of the season. After failing to cash a rebound, the second-year winger retrieved the puck in the left faceoff circle, whirled around and beat Dechaine top shelf.
David Kope got that one back for the Oil Kings at 6:40 when he skated through the top of the crease and redirected a point shot by Conner McDonald past Anders.
Kehler then restored the hosts’ lead with a power-play goal just over two minutes later, connecting on a one-timer of a cross-crease feed from Fix-Wolansky and setting up a wild finish.
While the Oil Kings were able to score once during their three power plays, the Rebels were zero-for-five with a man advantage while surrendering a short-handed goal.
That Red Deer’s power play struggled mightily less than 24 hours after potting three goals in a 7-2 win over Edmonton, was on the shoulders of the club’s top players, Sutter suggested.
“Our power play was a reflection of the way those guys played five-on-five,” said Sutter, in reference to the likes of Grayson Pawlenchuk, Kristian Reichel, Mason McCarty and Brandon Hagel.
“I wasn’t happy with our top players tonight. They didn’t play well. Your best players have to be your best and we didn’t have enough good players here today.”
Notable: Anders made 18 saves while suffering his 15th regulation-time loss of the season. Dechaine posted his seventh win with a 29-save effort . . . The loss snapped a streak of nine games in which Red Deer recorded points . . . Attendance at Rogers Place was 11,317 . . . The Rebels remain four points in arrears of the Kootenay Ice for what will almost certainly be the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. The Ice fell 6-0 to the host Moose Jaw Warriors Saturday . . . The Rebels open a four-game B.C. Division trip Monday afternoon in Prince George. Red Deer also plays Wednesday at Kelowna, Friday at Victoria and Saturday in Vancouver. The Rebels’ next home game is Feb. 21 versus the Calgary Hitmen.