Rebels surrender four power-play goals in season-ending loss
Hurricanes 6 Rebels 2
LETHBRIDGE — The Red Deer Rebels never gave themselves a fighting chance as underdogs in Tuesday’s Game 7 of a WHL Eastern Conference quarter-final versus the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
“We started the game fine, then took two bad penalties in a row,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter, in reference to a pair of early infractions that led to a pair of Hurricanes goals and, in the end, proved costly in a 6-2 loss before a sell-out throng of 5,244 fans at the Enmax Centre.
The Hurricanes wasted precious little time taking advantage of penalties assessed to Brandon Hagel and Jared Freadrich at 5:51 and 7:06, respectively, as Brennan Menell connected on a one-timer from just inside the blueline and Giorgio Estephan picked the top corner from just inside the circle.
The Rebels battled back with a goal from Lane Zablocki late in the period following a turnover caused by Red Deer captain Adam Musil, but the ‘Canes countered on the following shift as Ryan Vandervlis scored at 19:30.
“We scored to get back into in and the very next shift, just like the last three games when we scored a goal, they responded and got momentum,” said Sutter.
A Lethbridge second-period penalty gave the Rebels an opportunity to cut the deficit to a single marker, but instead Jordy Bellerive potted a short-handed goal following a feathered pass from Vandervlis and the Rebels fate was pretty much sealed.
Hagel potted the Rebels’ second goal with a rising wrist shot from just inside the blueline at 2:31 of the third period, but Vandervlis buried a rebound at 8:18 and Menell scored at 10:33 — both on the power play — and the end result was all but decided.
“It’s 4-2 and we get close with still 17 minutes to go in the period, then we take a penalty after the whistle and bang, it’s in your net,” said Sutter. “Then we take two more penalties and they score and all of a sudden it’s 6-2.
“Their power play took advantage of some undisciplined hockey. What bothers me is we told the players that everything had been discussed and guys had been punished by sitting out or skating hard after practice.
“But if you don’t take it seriously enough and dial in, it’s going to beat you, and when you get into Game 7 you can’t be an undisciplined hockey team.”
Five-on-five, the Rebels appeared to be the better team Tuesday, but the ‘Canes’ power play — sixth-best during the regular season and a non factor earlier in the quarter-final set but which came to life in the last two games — was four-for-six.
“What bothers me is that I really thought that was something we’d take a lot of pride in tonight,” said Sutter. “We talked about it before the game, how to give ourselves a chance we needed to be smart on everything we did, but the kids let the emotion of the game get the better of them and couldn’t control it.”
Even up, the Rebels were easily the ‘Canes equal.
“The difference was on the power play. We didn’t score and they scored four goals,” said Sutter.
“I don’t like undisciplined hockey. It just doesn’t give you a chance to win.”