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Rebels struggle defensively and on special teams in 6-2 loss to ‘Canes

Hurricanes 6 Rebels 2

The Lethbridge Hurricanes sported an impressively high shooting percentage Friday night; the Red Deer Rebels, not so much.

The Rebels were outshot by the scant margin of 29-28, but were nowhere near that close on the scoreboard, which, in the end, read 6-2 in favour of the host ‘Canes, who got two-goal performances from Jake Leschyshyn, Nick Henry and Igor Merezhko.

The Rebels wasted a handful of scoring opportunities in the first period and trailed 2-0 at the intermission. Leschyshyn connected from the top of the right circle with Red Deer’s Brandon Hagel in the penalty box and Henry buried a rebound of a Logan Barlage shot that rang off the crossbar.

“We got off to too slow of a start and I thought that hurt us in the long run,” said Rebels assistant coach Ryan Colville.

The Rebels were indeed under heavy pressure early and rallied somewhat to create a few serious scoring chances, finally breaking through early in the middle frame when Josh Tarzwell beat ‘Canes goalie Carl Tetachuk with a rising shot from the left side.

But that was as close at the visitors would get, as Leschyshyn delighted the Enmax Centre gathering of 3,935 just over three minutes later, firing a bouncing puck over Rebels netminder Ethan Anders.

Henry buried a centering pass from Zack Stringer at the midway point of the period to extend the lead to 4-1, before Red Deer’s Oleg Zaytsev cashed a rebound at 14:52 to cut the margin in half.

The hosts were outshot 7-4 in the third period but closed out the contest with the final two goals, both tallied by Merezhko. The big rearguard beat a screened Rebels goaltender Byron Fancy — who relieved Anders following the ‘Canes’ fourth goal — with a slapshot from the high slot and scored into an empty net at 14:40 with Fancy on the bench and the Rebels on the power play.

“We didn’t have enough guys committed to doing the right things and playing the right way,” said Colville. “At times we got it going, but there was just way too many odd-man rushes (against) and not enough sustained zone time.

“We had our moments when we got pucks in and went after it. There were times when we played in their end and created stuff at their net, but it definitely wasn’t enough though.”

The Rebels also lost a one-sided special teams battle, going zero-for-six on the power play while surrendering a pair of man-advantage markers.

“That’s not helping us now,” Colville said of the play of the recently struggling Red Deer special teams. “We have to get both special teams going. It’s hard work, it’s out-working the other team’s special teams units.”

Notable: Anders made 16 saves on 20 shots, while Fancy blocked all five shots he faced in the second period and seven of eight overall. Tetachuk made 26 saves . . . Hagel picked up an assist on Zaytsev’s goal, giving him 160 assists for his WHL career. Hagel moved into a tie with Justin Mapletoft for the most helpers in Rebels franchise history and is just one back of all-time assists leader — and points leader — Arron Asham . . . Selected as the three stars were each of the Hurricanes’ goal scorers . . . The Rebels host the Calgary Hitmen Saturday at the Centrium. 

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