By Advocate staff
Hurricanes 3 Rebels 2
LETHBRIDGE — One might say the Red Deer Rebels beat themselves Friday night.
Up 2-1 and on the power play with just over eight minutes left in the third period, the Rebels coughed up a short-handed goal, then watched the Lethbridge Hurricanes score the winner roughly six minutes later before 4,944 fans at the Enmax Centre.
With the Rebels looking to increase their lead to two goals, Sam McKechnie took advantage of some careless point play by Red Deer defencemen Brady Gaudet and Mathew Dumba and scored on a breakaway to square the count at two.
“That’s an awful goal to give up,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “We’re on the power play and set up to at least get an opportunity to go up by two goals, but ‘Gauds’ and Matty are too casual and give up a breakaway goal.
“It was stupid, stupid decision-making at that point in time. They (Hurricanes) pressure the points so you have to get the puck down low, but they made some bad decisions, both of them. They had brain cramps and were way too casual.”
If that wasn’t painful enough, the Red Deer defence faltered on the winning goal scored by Russell Maxwell, from a scramble, at 17:09.
“It’s an out-manned situation, four guys to two guys, the puck comes into the slot and no one wants it. Our guys are all standing right there,” said Sutter.
“We had some breakdowns in urgency in a game that was being played like a playoff game, which all games are at this time of the year. But you have to find a way to close it out and not beat yourselves.”
Following a scoreless opening period, Dominik Volek — with assists from Turner Elson and Rhyse Dieno — opened the scoring for the Rebels with a power-play tally five minutes into the middle frame. But Graham Hood responded for the ‘Canes with an extra-man marker at 14:11.
Dumba connected at 7:08 of the third period to restore the visitors’ lead, but the Hurricanes got the two late goals to improve to 24-22-1-7 and pull to within four points of fourth-place Red Deer in the Eastern Conference. Saskatoon, a 6-0 winner Friday over visiting Calgary, and Swift Current, which fell 3-0 at Edmonton, are tied for sixth spot, five points back of the Rebels.
Bartosak made 28 saves for the Rebels, who were outshot 22-16 through 40 minutes but carried the play in the final frame with a 17-9 advantage in shots. Ty Rimmer turned in a 31-save effort for the ‘Canes.
“We played well the whole game. We had a few spurts in the second where we weren’t as good, but we did a lot of good things tonight,” said Sutter. “But again, you have to find a way to win the game, especially when you’re up 2-1. You can’t have casual, non-urgent hockey at that point, especially from your top players.”
The Rebels returned home following the game and will depart Tuesday for Prince George, where they will open a three-game trip with a Wednesday meeting with the Cougars.
Red Deer will take on the Seattle Thunderbirds two nights later and will conclude the Western Conference jaunt with a Feb. 9 game at Kamloops.