Rebels take one on the jaw
Warriors 6 Rebels 4
MOOSE JAW — A severe second-period slippage proved costly to the Red Deer Rebels Friday night before 3,506 fans at Mosaic Place.
The Rebels watched a 3-1 lead turn into a 5-3 deficit within a seven-minute stretch of the second period en route to a 6-4 Western Hockey League loss to the Moose Jaw Warriors.
If that wasn’t bad enough for the 4-3-0-0 Rebels, who suffered their second straight setback, the club lost forward Grayson Pawlenchuk for what will no doubt be an extended period of time when the impressive rookie suffered a broken elbow in the second period and will require surgery.
“We played really well for the first 30 minutes of the game,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “The momentum changed when we were playing four-on-four and decided we wanted to play the game in our zone and we were very undisciplined with the puck.
“We took a penalty and they scored on the power play, then it was just mistake after mistake for the rest of the period.”
The Warriors pulled even with back-to-back power play goals at 11:16 and 12:39 by Travis Brown and Jack Rodewald following successive holding penalties to Brady Gaudet and rookie Austin Shmoorkoff, then got even-strength markers from Dallas Valentine and Tanner Eberle at 15:04 and 18:21.
“We were fine again in the third period, but we just took too many penalties at bad times,” said Sutter.
Warriors forward Todd Fiddler potted his second of the evening — a power-play tally at 17:18 of the final frame — and Rebels centre Conner Bleackley closed out the scoring with his second man-advantage tally of the game — and fifth goal of the season — at 19:23.
Fiddler opened the scoring 4:03 into the contest with the Rebels playing men short following a high sticking minor to Christian Stockl and a charging major and ensuing game misconduct to Kolton Dixon.
Bleackley pulled the Rebels even just over four minutes later and the Rebels bolted out to a 3-1 lead on early second-period power-play goals from Gaudet and Rhyse Dieno. Then the roof fell in.
Sutter wasn’t about to throw 16-year-old rookie netminder Taz Burman under the bus. The Rebels back-up stopper finished with 30 saves, while Justin Paulic made 24 saves for Moose Jaw.
“He (Burman) played fine. The power-play goals they (Warriors) scored were good goals,” said the Rebels bench boss.
Sutter, for obvious reasons, had mixed feelings about the Rebels’ special teams as both clubs were four-for-six on the power play.
“The specialty teams worked both ways — negatively and positively,” he said.
Just seven games into the regular season, the Rebels are already hard-luck victims with injuries to Pawlenchuk, who had four goals and seven points heading into Friday’s contest, and veteran forward Lukas Sutter, who is listed as week-to-week with an upper-body injured suffered last weekend.
In addition, veteran defenceman Devan Fafard will serve the final game of a three-game suspension when the Rebels conclude their four-game road trip tonight against the Brandon Wheat Kings. Fafard’s absence was magnified when Dixon was booted early Friday.
“That was a very questionable call,” said Brent Sutter, who noted that the so-called victim of the charging infraction — Sam Fioretti — was back on the ice two shifts later.
Still, the Rebels boss wasn’t impressed with how his club folded in the second period.
“We have to find a way to play 60 minutes on the road, that’s the key,” he said. “We were better tonight than we were in Prince Albert (in a 4-1 loss Wednesday) but we had a breakdown tonight and it hurt us.”
• Sutter reassigned forward Cory Millette to the Estevan Bruins of the SJHL earlier in the day. Millette, the club’s second-round pick in the 2010 WHL bantam draft, was in his third season with the Rebels but had fallen out of favour with the Red Deer coaching staff.