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Same old story — Tigers burn Rebels with potent power play

Photos by Rob Wallator

Tigers 5 Rebels 3

It’s akin to a broken record — the Medicine Hat Tigers venture into the Centrium and slay the Red Deer Rebels with their power play.

The same situation that has brought the Tigers success against the Rebels this season unfolded yet again Friday, with the visitors striking for three man-advantage goals in a 5-3 win before 3,889 fans.

The Tigers are now an astounding 11 for 19 on the power play versus their Central Division rivals in 2018-19.

The Tigers’ extra-man play was certainly the difference in Friday’s contest as the Rebels were probably the better team five-on-five, outshooting their guests 39-34 despite committing numerous turnovers.

“Yoy beat yourself, it’s two points we lost tonight because we just did some things you can’t do,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “And they’re a team that’s going to take advantage of it. They have good goaltending and they have some guys up front on their power play.

“Their power play, 50 per cent or more of their goals have been scored against us. That’s not a good stat to have. It tells you your penalty killing and goaltending has to be better and there are too many undisciplined penalties. Those three things fall in line.”

The Rebels never led in a game that was scoreless through 20 minutes.

With Rebels defenceman Jacob Herauf off for holding, the Tigers struck first at 4:20 of the second period when defenceman Elijah Brown rang a shot off the post and in.

Rebels rearguard Ryan Gottfried notched his first-ever WHL goal just over five minutes later with a wrist shot from just inside the blueline, but James Hamblin and Logan Christensen replied back to back for the Tigers late in the period.

Hamblin beat Rebels netminder Ethan Anders through a screen and Christensen pushed the puck through the skates of a Red Deer defender and from a sharp angle caught the far top corner of the net.

Brandon Hagel brought the Rebels back to within one early in the final frame when he cut wide in the high slot and ripped a bullet past Tigers stopper Mads Sogaard. But the visitors responded on the power play shortly after as Brown was left uncovered and converted a cross-ice pass from Bryan Lockner.

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“You give up three power play goals, your defence gets beat one on one and you take a bad penalty to put your team down two men. And there are two bad goals that we need saves on,” said Sutter.

The Rebels boss was referring to Christensen’s marker and the Tigers’ final goal — a quick snap shot by Baxter Anderson from down low at 13:14 of the third .

Otherwise, Anders was solid, making 29 saves including several of the difficult variety. Sogaard was stellar as usual, stopping 36 shots for his 11th win of the season and fifth against Red Deer.

Anderson’s marker came just four minutes after Hagel set up Reese Johnson in the low slot to once again pull the Rebels to within one.

“Just too many things you can’t do to win a game at this time of the year, it doesn’t matter if you’re playing a divisional team or not,” said Sutter. 

“I thought we turned too many pucks over, especially in the first half of the game. We had pucks on our sticks and just didn’t make smart decisions.

“I’ve said this all along — you can get away with it in minor hockey, you can’t get away with it at this level. You can’t give up five goals and think you’re going to win, especially at this time of the year. It’s impossible, it’s really hard.

“Again, you look at the things we did to give up those goals. It’s not like it’s happening to our young kids. Our veteran players, guys who have been here for three years or longer are doing some of that crap they’re doing.

It affects us in  a bad way and we have some guys who just have to play better. We have some of our 18-and 19-year-olds who have to be better players for us.”

To their credit, the Rebels pushed hard in the final two minutes after finally being rewarded with their first power play of the night and with Anders on the bench. But Sogaard was equal to the occasion.

“We didn’t quit, it had nothing to do with that part of it,” said Sutter. “For the most part this team does work but there’s a difference between working and working smart . . . working with discipline and managing pucks the right way.”

And there’s that dreaded Medicine Hat power play, which has lived off the Rebels’ penalty kill this season.

“There are certain things that happen to us, just details with our penalty killing,” said Sutter. “Whether it’s not taking that lane through the middle with guys a foot or two off where they should be . . . their sticks aren’t where they should be and shots are coming and we’re not blocking shots.

“You’re not keeping shots to the inside of the ice on the short side of your goalies, you’re letting them go far side. And then there are the undisciplined penalties.

“It’s about being smart and playing the right way. They certainly burnt us on that and credit to them, but at the same time our details have to be better.”

The Tigers were three-for-four with a man advantage and as previously noted, the Rebels’ lone power play came very late.

“Don’t even get me started on that,” said Sutter. “I’ve lost many hours of sleep over certain things that go on.”

Notable: With Rebels backup netminder Byron Fancy out due to illness, the Rebels dressed Eric Ward from the midget AAA Edmonton Canadian Athletic Club . . . The three stars were (1) Brown, (2) Hagel and (3) Johnson . . . The Rebels host the Prince George Cougars Saturday.

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