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Rebels sloppy defensively in 7-4 road loss to Tigers

Photo by Randy Feere

Tigers 7 Rebels 4

MEDICINE HAT — On a rare night that they were able to solve Medicine Hat Tigers goaltender Mads Sogaard, the Red Deer Rebels couldn’t keep the puck out of their own net.

After falling prey to the Danish stopper on five previous occasions this season, the Rebels made Sogaard look human. Unfortunately for the visitors, they also made the Tigers forwards look other-worldly.

In the end, the Tigers completed a six-game season sweep of the Rebels Wednesday with a 7-4 Western Hockey League victory witnessed by a crowd of 2,870 at the Canalta Centre.

It wasn’t all bad for Red Deer as the Brandon Wheat Kings fell 6-2 at home to the Moose Jaw Warriors, leaving the Rebels just a single point away from clinching a post-season berth.

The Rebels were in decent shape Wednesday until their hosts struck for three goals in a span of three minutes and 29 seconds early in the second period.

Zak Smith cashed a rebound to give Red Deer a 2-1 lead 57 seconds into the middle frame, but the Tigers roared back with a goal from Ryan Chyzowski and two courtesy of Brett Kemp before the period was seven minutes old.

Chyzowski redirected a point shot by Cole Clayton past Rebels netminder Ethan Anders, and Kemp followed by cutting across the low slot and unleashing a lethal wrister during a Tigers power play and then scoring a similar goal shortly after.

“You can’t put it all on the goalie obviously,” said Rebels assistant coach Brad Flynn. “It was total team defence. We missed some assignments and our guys should know better than that, especially at this time of the year.”

The Tigers’ quick-strike ability was also on display in the opening period. Rebels forward Jeff de Wit opened the scoring with a power-play tally at 7:48, banging home a loose puck from the edge of the crease, but just 16 seconds later James Hamblin drove down the right wing, cut to the middle and whipped a shot over Anders’ glove.

“We would score and they would gain momentum and come right back quickly,” said Flynn. “We have to be able to do a better job of game management after we score. We have to make sure we bear down and get pucks deep.”

The Rebels pulled to within one at 11:35 of the second period as Josh Tarzwell made a nifty move and connected from the right circle, but as per Flynn’s comments, Medicine Hat responded quickly with Chyzowski scoring on the power play just over a minute later.

Kemp completed his hat-trick performance by chipping home a loose puck 7:26 into the final stanza. 

Brandon Hagel beat Sogaard low to the stick side at 9:03 and the Tigers’ Logan Christensen closed out the scoring at 13:07 by squeaking a shot from low in the left circle past Byron Fancy, who replaced Anders following Medicine Hat’s previous marker.

“If you score four goals on the road you have to win the game,” said Flynn. “There were just too many mistakes, too many missed coverage assignments. The guys know better than that.

“We took two bad penalties as well.”

The Tigers were two-for-three on their power play, which wreaked havoc on the Rebels all season with an unheard of nearly 60 per cent success rate.

Red Deer was one-for-two with a man advantage and got a 26-save performance from Anders.

Fancy stopped two of the three shots he faced in the third period, while Sogaard made 24 saves for the win.

While the Tigers clinched an Eastern Conference wild-card playoff berth with their victory and Brandon’s loss, the Rebels can grab a wild-card spot by earning just a single point in either of their final two regular-season contests. Red Deer is home to the Lethbridge Hurricanes Friday and takes on the host Kootenay Ice Sunday.

“One point does it for us but obviously we want to go into the playoffs feeling good and the best way to feel good is to win games,” said Flynn. 

“We have two games left to get a roll going, starting off against Lethbridge.”

Notable: Forward Ethan Rowland got a handful of shifts after joining the Rebels Monday. Red Deer’s first-round pick in the 2017 WHL bantam draft was summoned after his junior A team, the Calgary Canucks, were eliminated from the AJHL playoffs . . . Hagel also picked up two assists to give him 101 points on the season. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was the last Rebel to break the 100-point barrier with 106 in the 2010-11 campaign . . . Selected as the three stars were (1) Kemp, (2) Chyzowski and (3) Hagel.

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