The Red Deer Rebels allowed five unanswered goals to the Calgary Hitmen in a 6-3 loss that had WHL playoff implications on Saturday.
Calgary made a statement as they continue to serge while hunting down the Rebels for third place in the Central Division.
Red Deer is just two points up on Calgary but the Hitmen have two games in hand.
The Rebels had a 3-0 lead and looked in control of their second home game in as many nights, but a Hitmen goal late in the final minute of the second and first minute of the third turned the tide.
When asked for his evaluation of the performance, Rebels GM/ head coach Brent Sutter seemed puzzled himself.
“How do you explain that,” he asked, before offering an answer.
“There’s really not an explanation. Just being outworked. Out competed. One team wanting it more than the other. We started seeing it coming even when the score was 3-0. We had some turnovers, we were soft on pucks. They were getting to pucks quicker than we were. Our defense weren’t getting pucks up the ice, forwards weren’t doing what they need to do with the puck.”
Calgary out shot the Rebels 26-9 in the last 20 minutes of the game. Sutter said the inconsistent play that lead to the loss is something they have been dealing with since earlier this year.
“They got the second goal, from there it we never regrouped the whole period. Outside of our goalie, he got rattled with 20 plus shots in the third,” he said.
“That team plays hard and they are going to play hard for 60. It’s something that’s hurt us over and over again this year since October. The commitment to play 60-65 (minutes) hard isn’t always there and it burnt us tonight.”
In the second period, Red Deer looked like an entirely different team. Austin Pratt scored on a nice passing play from Michael Spacek and Evan Polei.
Lane Zablocki added two goals in the frame and has five in his last four games. He also has 14 goals in 22 games since joining the Rebels, coming close to his 18 in 72 games with Regina last year.
The first, he danced off the half wall into the middle of the ice and fired a rocket top corner.
His second of the night and 23rd of the season was a quick snapshot from just inside the blue line that Hitmen goalie Trevor Martin never saw.
Red Deer native Luke Coleman had two goals on the night for the Hitmen.
The Rebels has a chance for redemption Sunday when they travel to Calgary to take on the Hitmen.