Poor effort results in Rebels loss
Chiefs 3 Rebels 2
It was a day of reflection for the Red Deer Rebels.
Less than 48 hours after turning in a passive performance in a 3-2 home-ice loss to the Spokane Chiefs, the Rebels players showed up at practice Monday and participated in a somewhat light-hearted on-ice session and then one-on-one meetings with the coaching staff.
“We actually let the kids have an east/west game today. We did a bit of skating and then we had a bunch of individual meetings,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brett Sutter, who was visibly distressed following Saturday’s loss at the Centrium.
“Obviously I’m not happy with the way certain individuals are playing and I’m not happy with our team play away from the puck. These are things we should have nailed down, especially the veteran guys who have been part of it since last November. We work on these things daily in practice and yet we have letdowns, especially in our own zone, that hurt us.”
A lack of discipline has also stung the Rebels. While their penalty killing has been decent in recent games, opposing teams have been able to build momentum off playing with an extra man.
Such was the case Saturday when the Rebels and Chiefs were pretty much even-up through the first 20 minutes, but the visitors were better the rest of the way after their hosts took four consecutive first-period minor penalties. Red Deer was nailed with a pair of too-many-men-on-the-ice infractions, one in each of the first and third periods.
“We’ve been taking some bad penalties,” said Sutter.
“There were four minor penalties the other night we should have never taken and two of them were bench minors from the same line, from not taking the right men when they come on the ice.
“That’s not something coaches are responsible for — the players know who they’re supposed to replace, they know their positions, and yet their awareness on the bench isn’t where it should be. It’s a lack of communication. When you don’t talk on the bench you have mistakes like this. These are mistakes that can’t happen and we’re beating ourselves because of certain things.”
The Rebels, with goaltender Patrik Bartosak as their best player, led 1-0 after two periods Saturday on a goal by Wyatt Johnson a mere 30 seconds into the contest.
Bartosak turned aside all 28 shots he faced through 40 minutes, but the Chiefs finally solved the 2012-13 CHL goaltender of the year in the final frame, getting a tying goal from Mike Aviani at 8:15 and a go-ahead power-play marker from WHL scoring leader Mitch Holmberg just 55 seconds later.
Defenceman Haydn Fleury pulled the Rebels even at 12:21 when he beat netminder Garrett Hughson with a man-advantage screened shot from the point, but former Rebels prospect Jackson Playfair scored his first of the season at 17:40 to give the visitors the win.
“We rebounded tonight after a really poor outing last night,” said Chiefs head coach Don Nachbaur, in reference to a 4-1 loss at Edmonton.
“We’re missing a couple of key forwards (Adam Helewka and Liam Stewart) due to injury so we’ve been through some adversity with all the road games early in the season taking a toll on us.
“But we worked hard tonight. We competed and got the result. We scored the way we have to tonight. We’re not a fancy team.”
Sutter commented following the game that Bartosak’s play was the only reason the Rebels were up 1-0 after two periods. Nachbaur agreed whole-heartedly with the assessment.
“He (Bartosak) was real good. I think he frustrated not only myself but my team,” said the Chiefs bench boss. “But we talked about how we needed to beat him in the third period and we went out and did it.
“We made a couple of adjustments. We saw no second shots from the 28 we had in the first two periods. Our first and third goals were the direct result of pucks coming off his pads.”
The Chiefs did get to rebounds in the final frame, but were also aided by Red Deer turnovers and an obvious lack of intensity from the home side.
“That’s why today we wanted to sit down and talk to everyone and get them focused on what they’re supposed to focus on,” said Sutter. “They know it — they recognize that their play isn’t what it should be and for the most part it’s our older players. It’s something that has to change. They have to get refocused and their mindset has to change.
“Yet we’re still right there. We’re 6-5 after 11 games and it’s a situation where no team is running away with it. The question is, do we want to continue to hover along with that or do we want to grab the bull by the horns, take charge and start playing to our potential?
“The young kids are going to get better and continue to develop as we go along here, but they have to have some positive influences. The older guys have to provide leadership by doing things right.”
The Rebels will have overage forward Lukas Sutter (upper body injury) back in gear when they host the Edmonton Oil Kings Friday. Defenceman Kolton Dixon is also a possibility after missing most of the last two games with a concussion.
The Calgary Hitmen will visit the Centrium Saturday.