The Red Deer Rebels gave up 14 short handed goals this season but the first one of the 2017 WHL playoffs was a back breaker.
Matt Alfaro broke wide past a Rebels defender and feathered a pass across the ice to Tanner Nagel on a two-on-one to break the game open with the Hurricanes third straight goal of the game.
The Hurricanes evened the best-of-seven series at one with a 5-2 win in Lethbridge on Sunday before heading to Red Deer on Wednesday.
Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter said the split on the road is a positive, but the effort from his team needs to be better.
“We’ll take it. I don’t think we played our best hockey yet,” he said.
“We played six periods of hockey here and we played two good ones. We’re probably fortunate the two were in one game. We have to be better. That includes a lot of different guys, some of our top guys need to be better too.”
Sutter added that it looked like his team might have been overly satisfied with a win in game one and didn’t play their best hockey as a result Sunday.
We didn’t play a very good game here tonight. I thought (Lethbridge) played well and they battled and played with the emotion that you have to have at this time of year. Outside of three or four guys our team didn’t. It wasn’t the way you want to play this time of year,” Sutter said.
“Things wrong with our mindset before the game started – being satisfied with one win here, that’s probably where it all began.”
Rebels forward Michael Spacek scored Sunday on the power play early in the third with the Rebels trailing 5-0. In his 19th career WHL playoff game, Spacek went high stick side from the slot on Hurricanes goalie Stuart Skinner.
Evan Polei chipped in his first of the playoffs on the power play midway through the final frame. Spacek assisted on the goal and has back-to-back two point nights to start the playoffs. Lane Zablocki also added an assist to extend his point streak to four games.
Red Deer finished the game 2/5 on the power play and for the second straight game didn’t allow a Hurricanes goal on the man-advantage.
“Something to build off of,” Sutter said about the two third period goals.
“But the score was out of hand by that point. The opposition takes the foot off the pedal a little bit. Our power play produced for us I guess and the penalty killing was good for us again. Those are two encouraging things.”
Egor Babenko netted a hat trick in game two for Lethbridge.
Skinner finished with 24 saves in the Lethbridge.
Riley Lamb was pulled after allowing the fifth goal for Red Deer and Lasse Petersen finished with four saves in relief.
Game three is Wednesday night at the Centrium with puck drop set for 7 p.m.