Short-handed Rebels fall to Oil Kings

Missing five regulars to NHL camps, the Rebels held on as long as they could.

Oil Kings 4 Rebels 3 (SO)

EDMONTON — The Red Deer Rebels have to be pleased with their performance during their opening weekend of the Western Hockey League’s regular season, considering they were missing five top-end players.

The Rebels lost both ends of a home-and-home twin bill against the Edmonton Oil Kings, but still managed to pick up two points.

After dropping a 3-2 overtime decision at home Friday the Rebels took to the road Saturday, losing 4-3 in a shootout in the first official game in the newly opened Rogers Place.

The game, witnessed by a sold out crowd of 18,102, proved to be an entertaining affair, once it got underway. The game was delayed 90 minutes after a hydraulic cherry picker, which was used to insert a camera in the scoreboard, broke down.

All the scoring, came in the second period with rookie D-Jay Jerome connecting twice and Evan Polei once for the Rebels, who trailed 1-0 and led 2-1 and 3-2.

Trey Fix-Wolansky opened the scoring for the Oil Kings 22 seconds into the middle stanza with Polei scoring at 4:17 and Jerome at 7:44. Lane Bauer evened the game at 12:16 with Jerome connecting again at 13:50, once again assisted by newcomer Jordan Roy.

Tyler Robertson scored the third power play goal of the game for the Oil Kings at 18:40, then it was time for the Rebels Trevor Martin to shine.

Martin, who finished with 41 saves, stood on his head in the third period as the Rebels were outshot 15-4.

“Both our goaltenders (Riley Lamb on Friday and Martin) were sharp this weekend,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “We’re grooming some younger guys on defence and it will take time for them to feel comfortable. We need to be patient and we’ll need our goaltenders to help pick them up.”

Sutter could see why the Oil Kings controlled the play as the game wore on.

“We wore down the later it got,” he said. “We’re missing five good players and a lot of our depth. Most of those guys will be back next week and you will see a lot different team when everyone is back.

“Puck possession is an important part of our game and with those guys we’ll have a lot more of that.”

Still Sutter as anything but upset with what he saw.

“The guys played hard and I was encouraged with their overall play. We still have a lot to work on, but really with a break here and there we could have won both games. Still two points isn’t bad.

“The kids work ethic was there … I like what I see.”

Jerome obviously caught Sutter’s eye with two goals and an assist.

“He played well offensively, but really I’m not worried about that part of the game, What I want is for the kids to understand and learn to do things the right way in moving the puck and defensively. They will learn from their mistakes. They have to realize they can’t get away with things they did at a lower level. But so far I’m encouraged.”

Colton Kehler and Bauer scored on Martin in the shootout while Grayson Pawlenchuk connected against Oil Kings netminder Patrick Dea, who made 24 saves during regulation time.

On Friday Sutter traded 18-year-old Taden Rattie to the Vancouver Giants for a sixth round pick in the 2017 WHL bantam draft.

Forwards Brandon Hagel (Buffalo) and Jeff de Wit (Detroit) will be back in camp today, leaving Adam Musil (St. Louis), Josh Mahura (Anaheim) and Michael Spacek (Winnipeg) still away.

The Rebels are on the road this weekend in Moose Jaw Friday, Brandon Saturday and Regina Sunday. They return home Oct. 5 against Kamloops.

Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter who can be reached at drode@bprda.wpengine.com. His work can also be seen at Danny’s blog at rdcathletics.ca