The Red Deer Rebels will have to adopt a killer instinct if they hope to get back into their WHL playoff series with the Brandon Wheat Kings.
The Rebels blew a third-period lead in each of the first two contests of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference final in Brandon during the weekend and ultimately lost both.
Now, with just two more losses separating the Rebels and their playoff run, it’s high time to clamp down defensively with the outcome on the line. If Red Deer assumes a late lead in either of Games 3 and 4 — set for Tuesday and Wednesday at the Centrium — they’ll have to find a way to preserve their edge.
Like the war cry of the Alec Baldwin character in the cutthroat real estate movie Glengarry Glen Ross, the Rebels must “always be closing.”
“When you’re up a goal in the third period with seven minutes left, you have to be able to lock it down,” Rebels associate coach Jeff Truitt said Monday.
“Tighten it up and obviously work for defending. Defending is going to be a big part of it no matter if we’re even or if we’re up. Coming out of these two games in which we were up and wound up losing . . . we have to make sure we defend the right way.”
Based on the first two games of the conference final, the Wheat Kings look somewhat different than the Rebels’ last opponent, the Regina Pats, in that they allow more scoring opportunities but also have the shooters to finish the job.
“From our standpoint, they are two different teams, but we still have to play to our strengths,” said Truitt. “No matter if it’s a tighter team or a high-flying team we’re facing, it’s a team that’s going to have a lot of skill and speed and we have to play the way we need to play.
“We have to make sure that when we get opportunities to lock things down in our own zone and win battles . . . that’s exactly what we have to do.”
While the Rebels did give up 10 goals — including an empty-netter — in the first two outings, they also found the back of the Wheat Kings net on seven occasions.
“We’ve scored in the series, which is great, and we know we can do that,” said Truitt. “Now it’s just a matter of balancing things off and improving on our defensive play.
“We’re not deflated either way. We’re back at home and that’s what’s important.”
The Centrium has been unusually loud this spring and the volume level might have been at an all-time high during Game 7 of the previous series versus Regina.
The Rebels will be looking for similar fan support in Games 3 and 4 of the current set.
“It was proven last series how energizing this building can be,” said Truitt. “It can really help you push through and that’s what we’re expecting these next two games.”
For the Rebels to be successful and extend the series beyond Wednesday, they’ll have to devise a way to shut down Brandon’s top line of Jayce Hawryluk, Nolan Patrick and Tyler Coulter, a forward unit that combined for 10 points in Saturday’s 6-4 triumph.
“They had a lot of very good shifts,” Wheat Kings GM/head coach Kelly McCrimmon told the Brandon Sun. “It’s just interesting, the little things in a game. (The Rebels) score the goal to start the second period on a bounce where it comes off the boards (on a bad bounce) and that’s a disappointing way to start a period. The very next shift, Patrick’s line had a great shift, dominated their shift, which gave us some energy back right away. They played really well.
“Who gets the goals and assists at the end of the night is part of it. You need that to happen but there are also a lot of things that go towards playing well and helping your team win.”
Rebels veteran defenceman Kayle Doetzel agreed that the Wheat Kings might boast the most lethal offensive attack in the league. En compagnie de plus, il existe d’innombrables site Web fournissant formels fraîche parmi hachure acheter Kamagra jelly sur ces dernières études, l’analyse en compagnie de cette dépistage ensuite même consultation gratuite parmi avérés experts.
“They’re definitely right up there,” he said. “They have scoring power up front, some quick and high-quality players up there. But if we stick to our game plan we can shut them down.”
The 20-year-old blueliner is adamant that the Rebels, with the exception of a mistake or a bad bounce here and there, played well enough to emerge victorious in at least one — and possibly both — of Games 1 and 2.
“I thought we played really well for the most part, overall our game was where we needed it to be,” he stated. “They obviously got a couple of bounces and more goals than us. But if we stick to our game we’ll be fine.”
Game 5, if needed, will be played Friday at Brandon. Sixth and seventh contests, if required, will go Sunday in Red Deer and next Tuesday in Brandon.