Edmonton Oil Kings goaltender Patrick Dea and Will Warm defend as Red Deer Rebel Evan Polei lines up a shot on goal during first-period action of the Rebels home opener on Friday night at the Enmax Centrium. Jeff Stokoe/Advocate photo

Edmonton Oil Kings goaltender Patrick Dea and Will Warm defend as Red Deer Rebel Evan Polei lines up a shot on goal during first-period action of the Rebels home opener on Friday night at the Enmax Centrium. Jeff Stokoe/Advocate photo

Rebels drop season opener to Oil Kings

Lamb stellar in home opener despite loss

Oil Kings 3 Rebels 2 OT

On a night when a lot of young players made their Red Deer Rebels debuts, it was the one between the pipes who stood out the most.

Last year’s starter Rylan Toth was traded away almost a week ago, leaving a hole in the net. The departure led to youngsters Riley Lamb, Dawson Weatherill and returning backup Trevor Martin all vying for the spot.

Lamb got the start, and he made a strong case for the top job. He stopped 30 of 33, keeping them in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oil Kings in the opening game of the Rebels 2016-17 regular season in the Western Hockey League.

“He bailed us out,” said Rebels veteran left winger Evan Polei. “The game could have easily been 5-2. Lamber played well, incredible for his first regular season game.”

Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter was impressed by the 18-year-old River, Man., goalie who was the MVP of the Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League last season.

“He was awesome,” said Sutter. “The tying goal, we had chances to get the puck out, but we were soft on the puck. The overtime goal, we let their go guy and they capitalized.

“He made some incredible saves and that’s the way he played in preseason, too. He’s certainly earned the right to start tonight and I thought he showed why.”

The Rebels, up 2-1, were hemmed into their own zone in the last 10 minutes of regulation, as the Oil Kings poured on the pressure. A scramble in front of the net led to Yewchuk tying the game and forcing overtime.

“The difference between this level and midget hockey is you can’t sit back,” said Sutter. “You have to stay on your toes and keep going. They came at us in the last 10 minutes and we got on our heels.”

It didn’t take the Oil Kings long to score the winning goal as newly minted captain Aaron Irving beat Lamb to end it just 26 seconds into the overtime period.

“We weren’t good enough in the last 10 minutes of the third period,” said Polei. “They walked all over us.

“Other than that we played a hard 50 minutes, but we didn’t get it done.”

Polei was responsible for the Rebels second goal, scooping up a loose puck and firing it over a sprawling Patrick Dea with 30 seconds to go in the first period. The goal gave the Rebels a 2-1 lead, which they held until 3:33 of the third period.

Lamb wasn’t the lone rookie, there were six other Rebels making their debut, and others such as Carson Sass and Akash Bains who were on the roster but played in few games.

It was Bains who opened the scoring on the Rebels 2016-17 season early in the first period. He an Pawlenchuk broke into the attacking zone on a two-on-one. Bains got the start and top line minutes playing with Polei and Grayson Pawlenchuk

Another positive coming out of the game was the success of the Rebels penalty kill. Despite five Oil Kings power play chances, the Rebels didn’t allow a special teams goal.

Notes: The Rebels played three 16-year-olds, Austin Schellenberg, Jacob Herauf and Brandon Cutler, with the core of their lineup away at NHL camps … D Josh Mahura, C Jeff de Wit, C Brandon Hagel, LW Michael Spacek and C Adam Musil have still not returned to the lineup from their NHL camps … Musil, who has impressed at St. Louis Blues camp, will wear the C on his jersey as he has been appointed captain when he returns to the Rebels … The Oil Kings were held without a shot for 18:20 in the second period. They finally registered a shot on Lamb with 1:40 to play in the frame … Attendance for the home opener was 5,274.

mcrawford@bprda.wpengine.com