Thunderbirds 6 Rebels 4
KENT, Wash. — On Friday night, the Red Deer Rebels were like the guest who arrives for dinner toting a bottle of wine for his hosts.
Indeed, the Rebels came bearing gifts for the host Seattle Thunderbirds, their offerings coming in the form of glaring giveaways.
The defensive gaffes were particularly costly in the second period, a frame in which the Rebels were outshot 19-9 and outscored 4-0.
Despite a spirited third-period push that netted three goals, the visitors couldn’t rally all the way back and fell 6-4 in front of 4,575 Western Hockey League fans at the ShoWare Center.
Noah Philip bolted out of the left corner and stuffed the puck under Rebels netminder Byron Fancy for the game’s first goal at 7:45 of the opening period, but Zak Smith, from the low slot, buried a feed from Alex Morozoff to pull Red Deer even a mere 37 seconds later.
“We were fortunate to get out of the first period even up,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “We turned the puck over a lot that period.”
The roof caved in on the Rebels in the middle stanza, with Matthew Wedman scoring on a two-on-one pass from Sean Richards to give the T-Birds a permanent lead, and his teammates burning their guests for an additional three unanswered markers.
Wedman’s tally came after a Rebels turnover near the Seattle blueline, and after Philp banked a shot in off a Red Deer skate during a Seattle power play, Andrej Kukuca hauled in an errant pass deep in the Rebels zone and beat Fancy high to the glove side at the 14-minute mark.
Henrik Rybinski completed Seattle’s second-period outburst just 64 seconds later for a 5-1 lead.
“We weren’t close to how we played the last three games,” said Sutter. “Too many mistakes. We just didn’t have enough guys play well enough for us tonight.”
The Rebels made it interesting early in the final frame, netting two goals inside of the first five minutes.
Alex Alexeyev stepped out of the penalty box, accepted a long pass from Josh Tarzwell and blew a 25-foot slapshot past T-Birds netminder Roddy Ross, and just 33 seconds had elapsed when Oleg Zaytsev buried a two-on-one feed from Brandon Hagel.
With Fancy on the bench in favour of an extra attacker, Reese Johnson, from the edge of the crease, tipped home a pass from Cam Hausinger at 18:34.
But the glimmer of hope faded when Wedman potted an empty-net goal with 58 seconds remaining.
Notable — Fancy finished with 38 saves, his best being a highlight reel stop on a one-timer by Payton Mount in the second period. Ross made 26 saves . . . Selected as the three stars were (1) Philp, (2) Richards and (3) Rybinski . . . The Rebels continue their US Division trip Saturday versus the Portland Winterhawks and conclude the five-game jaunt Tuesday against the Tri-City Americans in Kennewick, Wash.