Pats 4 Rebels 3
REGINA — Too many penalties taken and very little push down the stretch.
That’s a Western Hockey League recipe for disaster and the Red Deer Rebels cooked up their own fate Friday night at the Brandt Centre.
The Rebels put the Regina Pats on the power play on seven occasions. The visitors successfully erased the first four infractions — which overlapped for a pair of Regina five-on-three advantages — but their penalty killers couldn’t hold the fort on the final three man-disadvantages.
The Pats, on the strength of a trio of power-play tallies, stormed back from a 3-1 deficit to post a 4-3 victory in front of 6,484 fans.
With the game deadlocked at 3-3 after two periods, the Rebels managed just six shots in the final 20 minutes while giving up the winning goal.
“Bad penalties and not enough urgency in the third period to win the game,” said Red Deer GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “We had one shot 13 minutes into the period. That doesn’t work. It’s tough to play that way . . . when you’re not playing the right way.”
The Rebels were issued two penalties in the first six minutes and by the time the second penalized player — newcomer Lukus MacKenzie — stepped back on the ice, were being outshot 10-1.
With the teams back at even strength, Red Deer forward Austin Pratt opened the scoring 9:24 into the game when his skate directed the puck past netminder Tyler Brown. Upon video review, the goal stood since Pratt was outside the crease.
Kristian Reichel gave Red Deer a two-goal cushion just over seven minutes later, converting a perfect feed from Jack Flaman on a short-handed, two-on-two rush.
The Pats got one back before the period ended as former Rebels defenceman Josh Mahura potted his first of two goals on the night on an end-to-end rush. Mahura cut in from the left and beat goaltender Ethan Anders with a high shot on the short side.
Flaman restored Red Deer’s two-goal lead on a two-on-one break early in the middle frame, his volley banking off the post and then off Brown’s back, but Jonathan Smart cut the deficit to one from the right circle with Rebels defenceman Dawson Barteaux off for hooking near the midway point of the period.
Mahura pulled the Pats even just over a minute later with Mason McCarty serving a tripping penalty. The Anaheim Ducks prospect scored from the high slot following some shoddy clearing attempts by the Rebels’ penalty killers.
Pats overage centre Matt Bradley delivered the killing blow — and the winning goal — at 9:44 of the third period, cashing a rebound from the side of the net with McCarty in the penalty box.
While Regina’s man-advantage units produced in a big way, the Rebels fired blanks on their four power plays.
“Our specialty teams weren’t good at all. Our penalty kill struggled tonight and our power play struggled again,” said Sutter.
The bottom line? Red Deer’s best players were, for the most part, outplayed.
“We have a lot of guys right now who aren’t playing at the level we need them playing at,” said Sutter, “and a lot of them are older guys. The other team’s top lines are outplaying our top lines.
“When your top players, especially your forwards, are getting outplayed, the defence doesn’t get the support in their own zone that they need, then they struggle with it.”
Anders, who was selected as the game’s second star, was a bright spot for the Rebels, as has been the case in nearly every one of his starts this season. The 17-year-old rookie, a Regina native, kicked out 44 shots.
“Anders was unbelievable, he was awesome,” said Sutter. “He played lights out and it’s great that he’s been a real good player for us, but we’re giving up way too many shots against.”
The Rebels conclude their brief two-game trip with a Saturday engagement with the Swift Current Broncos.
“He (Anders) has to play again tomorrow after facing almost 50 shots tonight,” said Sutter.
Brown made 25 saves for the Pats.
The Rebels will return home following Saturday’s contest and will practise for three days before heading west on a five-game jaunt that opens next Friday at Kamloops.
Pats 4 Rebels 3