Hitmen 2 Rebels 1
CALGARY — The effort was better.
Unfortunately for the Red Deer Rebels, the result was the same.
The Rebels gave up a late second-period goal and fell 2-1 to the Calgary Hitmen before 7,481 fans Friday at the Saddledome. Red Deer, 4-2 losers the night before, trails the best-of-seven WHL Eastern Conference semifinal 2-0 with Games 3 and 4 scheduled for Monday and Tuesday at the Centrium.
“Our effort was good, I thought we competed harder tonight,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter, who expressed opposite emotions following Game 1.
“But it’s still not enough. We have to do more.”
A sore point and an ongoing problem was the Rebels’ inability to cash in on the power play. Red Deer’s penalty kill was a flawless five-for-five, but the man advantage units were zero-for six.
“We had power play opportunities but didn’t get the job done like we have to,” said Sutter. “Again, the power play is a reflection of your top players.”
What really bothered the Rebels bench boss was the manner in which his club surrendered the winning goal. When Cory Millette misplayed the puck at the Red Deer blueline late in the second period, Victor Rask corralled the disc and scored on a breakaway.
The goal came roughly four minutes after the Rebels had killed off a five-minute kneeing penalty to Matt Bellerive, a major infraction — accompanied by a game misconduct — that was tempered somewhat by an interference minor to Calgary.
“That’s a tough goal to give up. You kill a five-minute major and you’re doing certain things well,” said Sutter. “A goal like that is just terrible. It’s a soft play, you have to be 100 per cent certain on a play like that.
“But they took advantage of it and that was the difference in the game.”
There was originally no call on the play that resulted in the Bellerive major. But after a meeting of the linesmen and referees Matt Kirk and Tyler Adair , Bellerive was penalized for the hit on Pavlo Padakin, who left the game with an apparent knee injury and did not return.
Sutter was incensed by the call.
“That’s not a five-minute major. He (Bellerive) skates three feet and delivers a bodycheck,” said Sutter.
“It’s a hockey hit, but I’ll let the league deal with their own officials on that one.”
The Hitmen struck just 47 seconds into the game when Elliott Petersen out-raced Rebels defenceman Brady Gaudet to the puck on a dump-in and beat netminder Patrik Bartosak to the far side.
The Rebels answered late in the opening frame as Jordan DePape fired a rebound past Hitmen goaltender Chris Driedger just seconds after a Calgary penalty had expired.
But that was it for the visitors, who are now faced with the task of winning four of the next five games — in the event the series goes the distance — to advance to the conference final.
“We have to make sure that we come out hot (Monday),” said Rebels captain Turner Elson. “We can’t just gradually pick it up and then get better in the third period.
“We have to make sure we got lots of pucks and bodies to the net. Their goalie is still seeing too many shots.”
The Rebels will also need some production from their power play units, which might be easier said than done considering the prowess of the Calgary penalty killers, including Calder Brooks.
“Our PK was outstanding tonight. There was a lot of power plays and penalty kills, it was a hard-fought game by both teams,” said Brooks.
“It was a tight game from the get-go. Both teams were working hard.”
Both goaltenders came up with a series of outstanding stops, with Bartosak finishing with 40 saves and Driedger blocking 29 shots.
° The Rebels dressed the same lineup as in Game 1 of the series, scratching forwards Scott Feser, Christian Stockl, Hunter Smith and Adam Musil, defencemen Kevin Pochuk and Riley Boomgaarden and goaltender Taz Burman . . . The Rebels are 3-1 versus the Hitmen in WHL playoff history, winning 4-2 in 2001, 4-1 in 2004 and 4-3 in 2004, and losing 4-0 in 1999 . . . The three stars Friday were (1) Rask, (2) Bartosak and (3) Driedger.