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The Red Deer Rebels didn’t register their first shot on goal Saturday until the game was nearly 14 minutes old.
Not a strong start considering the team was back at home for the first time in two and a half weeks.
Still, the hosts played like they cared early on and despite scoring the game’s first goal early in the middle frame, struggled the remainder of the period, giving up a trio of goals and eventually dropping a 3-1 WHL decision to the Kootenay Ice before 5,412 fans at the Centrium.
“I thought we had a really good first period in the sense that I just liked our work ethic,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “We talked about that, about how too many nights we’re getting outworked.
“Then in the second period we went back to our old ways again and in the third we tried to recover.”
The Rebels were outshot 11-7 in a scoreless opening period and snapped the tie when Mason McCarty hauled in a feed from Reese Johnson and caught the far corner of the net from low in the left faceoff circle.
But instead of grabbing the momentum following the goal, which came at the 1:33 mark and was McCarty’s 12th of the season, the Rebels watched the visitors strike for three unanswered tallies.
Alec Bauer connected from the right circle near the midway point of the period and Colton Veloso slipped a backhand through the pads of Rebels netminder Ethan Anders for the eventual winner just 55 seconds later.
With the Ice on the power play, Peyton Krebs ripped a one-timer past Anders at 17:21 from directly off a faceoff in the Red Deer zone.
The loss was the Rebels’ third in succession and ninth in their last 10 games. It was also the second setback to the Ice in as many nights after their Central Division foes battled back with two third-period goals in a 4-3 win Friday at Cranbrook.
“Look at these two games, we talked going into this series about wanting to treat these divisional games like playoff hockey,” said Sutter. “They played six period of hockey, we played four — two in each game.
“The difference too is we took 11 minor penalties in two games, they took three.That’s a significant difference. That’s 16 minutes, almost one period of hockey. Penalties gain momentum for opposing teams.”
The Ice were one-for-five with a man advantage Saturday while the Rebels fired blanks on their two power plays. Red Deer’s power play has now scored once in 32 attempts dating back 10 games — to a 5-4 overtime loss Oct. 29 at Cranbrook.
“With us, our power play has been non-existent for a bit now. It’s been tough and that’s just a reflection of your work ethic from normally your top players,” said Sutter.
“We have to find a way to get out of this. We can’t sit around and feel sorry for ourselves, we have to get out of it.
“It’s been something that’s been building for quite some time. We talked to the kids about it three weeks to a month ago, about how they had to change their mindset in the way they think or else it’s going to nail them in the butt. Well, it’s nailing them in the butt now.”
Sutter insisted there’s no secret about what has to change in order for his team to reverse their fortunes.
“Simple, get back to being a hard-working team with more discipline,” he said. “Everyone talks about so many things, but it all begins with work ethic.
“You don’t have discipline in your game, you don’t have compete, you don’t have structure . . . all those things you don’t have when you’re not a working team. There are times our team doesn’t work hard enough. We get out-battled, out-competed.”
The Rebels, as Sutter noted, are struggling with executing the basics of the game due to their lack of urgency.
“Look at the mistakes we made in the second period. Why did they happen, because you’re not engaged,” he said. “They’re just simple hockey plays. “You see it at much lower levels with players knowing what to do, and these players know what to do too. I don’t know . . . if we had answers we’d have it corrected already.”
Notable: Anders finished with 30 saves, while Duncan McGovern turned aside 23 shots for the Ice . . . With the positive result, Kootenay improved to 10-12-1-0 and moved into sole possesion of second place in the Central Division, two points clear of the 9-14-1-0 Rebels . . . The three stars were (1) Krebs, (2) Baer and (3) Anders . . . The Rebels are idle until next Friday when they’ll host the Portland Winterhawks.
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