Oil Kings 3 Rebels 2
The Red Deer Rebels didn’t resemble a team that’s fighting to maintain a WHL wild-card playoff berth Tuesday night.
The Rebels played the Edmonton Oil Kings even up during the opening 20 minutes but were outplayed the rest of the way in a 3-2 loss witnessed by 4,070 fans at the Centrium.
“I didn’t like our last two periods at all. I thought we were very, very average at best,” said Red Deer GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “We got out-worked, we got out-competed. There wasn’t a forward that I could say I liked here tonight.
“Right from our top players right down we were just too soft. They won all the battles, they got the puck first. Our forecheck tonight was non-existent, we’d put pucks in and no one finished checks. They’d turn around and get the puck and come right back out of their zone and make plays.”
Trey Fix-Wolansky supplied the visitors with a lead when he cut across the high slot and whipped a shot to the far corner from his off wing 12 minutes into the game.
Dawson Barteaux got that one back with the Rebels on a five-on-three power play just over three minutes later, his low point shot beating a screened Oil Kings netminder Dylan Myskiw to the stick side.
Only the stellar play of Red Deer goaltender Ethan Anders kept the Rebels in the game in a scoreless middle frame, in which Edmonton held a 17-3 advantage in shots.
It was as if the Rebels were giving their northern neighbours too much respect.
“They’re a good hockey team but you have to play harder than that,” said Sutter. “That’s unacceptable. I’m not going to accept that.
“For a team that’s fighting to get in the playoffs, you can’t play that way. There has to be more urgency.”
The shot count was much closer in the final period, 12-10 in favour of the Oil Kings, but the Rebels surrendered a go-ahead marker at the 4:12 mark when Vladimir Alistrov scored from a goalmouth scramble.
Vince Loschiavo notched the eventual winner three minutes later during an Edmonton power play, one-timing a rink-wide feed from Quinn Benjafield into the back of the net.
The Rebels answered with a man-advantage goal at 12:27, with Jeff de Wit tipping in a point shot by Barteaux, then with Anders on the bench in the final minute in favour of an extra attacker, nearly pulled even when Reese Johnson rang a shot off the post with a one-timer from the left circle.
“Why do we have urgency in the last friggin minute of the game? Why don’t we show that earlier? That’s where it bothers me,” said Sutter.
Myskiw had a leisurely night for the visitors, turning aside 19 shots, while Anders made 34 saves.
“Andy was by far our best player tonight. It wasn’t even close,” said Sutter.
The Rebels remain four points up on Brandon for the second-wild card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and are tied with the Medicine Hat Tigers, whom they visit Wednesday, for the first wild-card position.
All three teams have a trio of regular-season games remaining.
Notable: Following Wednesday’s meeting with the Tigers, the Rebels close out their regular-season schedule with a home game Friday versus the Lethbridge Hurricanes and a Sunday afternoon meeting with the Kootenay Ice in Cranbrook . . . Red Deer forward Alex Morozoff served the first half of a two-game suspension for being assessed a five-minute boarding penalty in Saturday’s win over Kootenay . . . Rebels long-time equipment manager Dave ‘Radar’ Horning was saluted during the contest for his 2,000th game on a WHL bench. He started his career with the Prince Albert Raiders and joined the Rebels in 1995 . . . Injured Rebels defenceman Alex Alexeyev was presented with the Red Deer Advocate’s Red Deer male athlete of the year award prior to the game. Kelsey Lalor won the female athlete award and Lyn Radford was feted with the City of Red Deer lifetime achievement award.