Oil Kings shutout Rebels 4-0
Oil Kings 4 Rebels 0
The TSN turning point Friday at the Centrium?
The first drop of the puck.
“It wasn’t pretty. It was a game where right from the opening faceoff they pretty well controlled it and we didn’t have a lot of pushback,” said a somewhat embarrassed Red Deer Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter following a 4-0 WHL loss to the Edmonton Oil Kings.
Indeed. Except for brief stretches in the first two periods, the Rebels were dominated in front of a Centrium crowd of 4,897, many of whom were already out of the parking lot at the final buzzer.
Sutter wasn’t shocked at the lack of intensity and desperation from his charges.
“It was disappointing, but to be quite honest I’m not surprised because we’ve seen signs of lethargic play in the last few games,” he said. “Tonight we didn’t get a response from anybody to push back. Their top line dominated and we had no response to that.
“It wasn’t a good game, it was a game that . . . well, what do you say? It’s on your home ice and you don’t play up to the level you need to play as individuals, and if you don’t care about your own personal play then care about the guys sitting right next to you and throw it on the line for him.”
The Oil Kings got the only goal they needed when Mitch Moroz pulled the trigger 3:19 into the contest, taking a corner feed from Curtis Lazar while in the high slot and beating Rebels netminder Patrik Bartosak with a one-timer.
Then, with Red Deer forward Evan Polei serving a slashing penalty, Griffin Reinhart blew a point shot past a screened Bartosak five minutes later. As it turned out, that was game, set and match.
“The first goal was key and then the power-play goal gave us a bit of breathing room,” said Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal.
The visitors didn’t need the leeway as their hosts created very little in the way of scoring chances.
Bartosak kept the Rebels in the contest, making 22 saves through the first 40 minutes. But the Oil Kings pelted him with 21 shots in the final frame while getting a pair of goals from Lazar, Ottawa’s first-round pick in this year’s NHL entry draft.
Lazar also assisted on both of Edmonton’s first-period tallies and was an easy selection as the game’s first star.
After struggling somewhat in their previous three outings, all on home ice, the Rebels looked out of their league Friday. Even the return of overage forward Lukas Sutter, who missed seven games with an upper-body injury, didn’t make a difference.
With a solid Calgary Hitmen club set to invade the Centrium tonight, the Rebels will need more, much more, from their older players.
“I thought Lukas was OK for his first game back after being out three weeks, but he needs to be better tomorrow night,” said Brent Sutter. “A lot of the other guys who have been through this have got to respond.
“Obviously we have lots of work left to do with this group. But we need to get some leadership from our veteran players. They’ve been too casual. Our young kids are going through a learning curve, this is a whole new step for them. I’m not letting them off the hook either, but our veteran group has to play a lot better.”
While Bartosak faced 45 shots, Tristan Jarry looked at only 21 in the Edmonton net.
“He was the difference in the second period,” said Laxdal of his third-year netminder, taken by Pittsburgh in the second round of June’s NHL entry draft.
“I thought Red Deer out-battled us in the second period, but we found a little more traction in the third when the battles won and lost were 11-1 for us.”
While the Rebels slipped to 6-6-0-0 with the setback, the Oil Kings improved to 5-5-0-0. However, based on Friday’s performance, it’s a safe bet they won’t be flirting with the .500 mark the rest of the way.
“Over our last four or five games we’re starting to discover the way we have to play,” said Laxdal. “We don’t have that offensive team we had last year and we have to find ways to grind out wins. We like the feel of our team. We have a little different identity with less skill, so we have to be a harder-working team, and Brent can attest to that.”
Rebels forward Matt Bellerive sat out the game due to illness, while defenceman Haydn Fleury suffered an undisclosed third-period injury and didn’t return. His status is unknown.
• The struggling Lethbridge Hurricanes sent veteran 19-year-old forwards Jaimen Yakubowski and Sam McKechnie home Friday after they requested a trade. The Rebels would certainly be interested in acquiring the hard-nosed Yakubowski, who last season scored 32 goals and racked up 126 minutes in penalties.