Oil Kings 2 Rebels 1
EDMONTON — Two nights after playing loosey-goosey in a high-scoring, one-goal loss at home, the Red Deer Rebels were much improved defensively versus the Edmonton Oil Kings Friday.
Unfortunately, the young Red Deer squad wasn’t rewarded. A grievous mistake with the clock winding down on regulation time was the ultimate undoing of the visitors, as an ill-timed line change led to Edmonton’s winning goal with 6.8 seconds remaining.
“That’s a kick in the gut, a tough way to lose,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter following a 2-1 WHL loss at Rogers Place.
“It was a bad line change. The puck gets dumped out (of the Rebels zone), their guy stops it at centre ice and our far winger comes all the way across the ice for a line change,” said Sutter.
“Our centre and other winger come off on a line change, they (Oil Kings) attack us on a three-on-two and score.”
Jake Neighbours capped a three-way passing play with Riley Sawchuk and Dylan Guenther by sweeping wide across the crease and slipping the puck past netminder Ethan Anders.
“We’ve talked all year about line changes and the worst part about this is it involved veteran players who have been in the league for quite some time,” said Sutter.
But other than the fatal faux pas . . .
“We played well, we played hard,” said Sutter. “We played a heck of a game.”
The teams traded first-period goals less than a minute apart before settling into somewhat of a defensive dogfight.
Josh Tarzwell accepted a touch pass from Jaxsen Wiebe and jammed the puck past Oil Kings goaltender Beck Warm for his 24th of the season 6:46 into the contest. Then, with Rebels defenceman Mason Ward serving a boarding penalty, Guenther beat Anders with a wrist shot from the top of the left circle at 7:26.
From there, the Rebels hardly surrendered an odd-man rush — until the final seconds — and got a nice performance from Anders.
“We did a really good job (defensively), we were really solid tonight,” said Sutter. “And Andy was good.”
Anders made 35 saves, including a great pad stop on Vladimir Alistrov and a sensational sliding save on Jayden Luypen, and was named second star of the game.
“We were doing things the right way tonight, managing pucks better. We did a lot of good things,” said Sutter.
Notable: Warm blocked 21 shots and was selected as the game’s first star, while Neighbours was awarded third-star status . . . The Rebels were zero-for-three on the power play, while the Oil Kings were one-for-four . . . The Rebels host the Calgary Hitmen Saturday, then head out Sunday on a five-game trip through the B.C. Division starting Tuesday in Victoria. Red Deer will be in Vancouver the following night and will then visit Kamloops and Kelowna Friday and Saturday before concluding the trip the following Monday, Feb. 17, in Prince George.