Pats 4 Rebels 2
The Red Deer Rebels continue to live on the wrong side of an invisible barrier.
“It wasn’t a lack of effort tonight, the kids played hard. But there’s a fine line between winning and losing and right now we’re below that line,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter, following Friday’s 4-2 WHL loss to the Regina Pats before 4,069 fans at the Centrium.
The loss was Red Deer’s seventh in succession and dropped them nine games below .500 (9-16-3-0).
“We have to get through it,” said Sutter. “We have to keep pushing and moving forward.
“We still need some guys to be better for us. I know they’re better players than the way they’ve been playing.”
The Rebels were competitive all evening despite falling behind 2-0 in the first period.
Pats captain Sam Steel scored on the power play 3:28 into the contest and Jake Leschyshyn made it 2-0 at 14:09. Both goals came off rebounds.
Red Deer netminder Ethan Anders faced 13 shots in the first 20 minutes, while Pats goalie Tyler Brown stopped all nine he faced.
“In the first period we didn’t have a second phase on our forecheck,” said Sutter. “The F1 was up the ice good but our second forward was gliding from the blueline in and we never generated much.
“We seemed to get going a bit in the second. Even though we didn’t have a lot of shots, we were moving our feet better.”
The Rebels got to within one at 13:44 of the middle frame when defenceman Jacob Herauf netted his first WHL goal with a shot from the top of the left circle during a five-on-three power play.
The score held up through the remainder of the period and the visitors netted the eventual winner at 13:22 of the final frame on a power-play deflection by Matt Bradley.
“In the third, in a 2-1 game, we had opportunities, but didn’t capitalize,” said Sutter. “Our power play had a chance and didn’t generate anything on it, then they got a power play and scored.”
Reese Johnson gave the Rebels one last chance to pull something out of the contest when he was left alone in front of Brown and converted a feed from Mason McCarty at 17:54.
But the Pats sealed the deal in the final minute when Bradley won a battle along the boards and fed Steel for an empty-net marker.
“It’s just winning those one-on-one things along the boards when you need it,” said Sutter “They have one player and we have two or three there and you end up losing that battle.
“It’s that trench type of work you need to have, when you need to get greasy and get your nose dirty, and sometimes we’re just soft in those areas. We have some guys who have to work through that. They have to get harder on their sticks.”
Sutter, though, wasn’t criticizing his club’s work ethic.
“Overall I thought our team effort was good tonight. I thought we battled, we competed,” he said. “There’s always going to be mistakes, you know that. But our compete level was good.”
The Rebels return to action Saturday when the Calgary Hitmen visit the Centrium.
“There are things you can always work on and we have to continue to work with some of these guys,” said Sutter. “We just have to keep going and get through it.
“Like I was just telling (the players), there’s no easy way with this. You can’t take short cuts, you have to meet it head on and man up about it. We have to come to the rink tomorrow and get ready to play.”
Notable: Anders finished with 27 saves including an excellent first-period stop on Robbie Holmes. Brown blocked 21 shots, with his best work coming on an extended Rebels power play in the second period when he robbed both Brandon Hagel and Lane Zablocki . . . Brown was selected as the game’s first star, while Herauf and Pats forward Nick Henry were picked as the second and third stars . . . McCarty extended his point streak to six games with his third-period helper.