Giants 5 Rebels 4 (SO)
There was a time, not so long ago, when the Red Deer Rebels looked like one of the top teams in the Western Hockey League.
Now they can’t beat the bottom feeders.
Case in point: Friday’s 5-4 shootout loss to the Vancouver Giants in front of a recorded gathering of 5,073 at the Centrium, a setback that followed negative results versus lowly Brandon and Kootenay in the previous six days.
The bottom line? No. 1 netminder Patrik Bartosak can’t return from the world junior hockey championship soon enough, and he’s scheduled to be back next week for Red Deer’s three-game trip into Saskatchewan.
“It’s tough, because you need better goaltending than we got from our veteran tonight,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter, clearly upset with the performance of starter Bolton Pouliot, who was yanked after surrendering a horrid power-play goal to Cain Franson late in the second period and replaced by rookie Grant Naherniak.
Sutter, in fact, wasn’t impressed with any of the three goals that were scored on Pouliot, although he re-inserted the second-year stopper for the shootout.
That was a decision that seemed to make sense, considering Naherniak had never competed in a WHL shootout, but Pouliot was beaten by three of the four Giants shooters.
“You put him in for the shootout because you want that experience versus a young kid who has never faced a shootout at this level before and you’re hoping that ‘Pouls’ will respond to that,” said Sutter. “But obviously he wasn’t sharp tonight and that hurt us.
“At the end of the day, this is major junior hockey and the next level is pro. I know people will say that Sutter is hard on goaltenders but you need goaltending to have some success.
“But it is what is is and we’ll take the single point and move on. We were good enough to win tonight but we never got the two points.”
Rebels captain Turner Elson opened the scoring off a fine feed from Matt Bellerive midway through the first period, but Brett Kulak pulled the visitors even five minutes later when his wrist shot from the point eluded Pouliot.
Trevor Cheek potted a man-advantage marker 51 seconds into the second period and Franson scored from long range 15 minutes later to give the Giants a 3-1 lead and spell the end for Pouliot.
The goaltending switch seemed to ignite the Rebels, who got back-to-back goals from Dominik Volek at 18:18 and 19:59, and Joel Hamilton gave Red Deer a 4-3 lead at 4:34 of the third period.
But Jackson Houck pulled the visitors even at 9:13 of the third period, setting the stage for a scoreless overtime in which Rebels forward Tyson Ness rang a shot off the post.
“We battled back and got the lead and then made a mistake in our zone and the puck was in the back of our net,” said Sutter. “Then we hit the crossbar in overtime and when you get into a shootout anything can happen.”
The win was huge for the Giants, who have struggled big time this season while in a rebuilding phase.
“We’ve had trouble finding ways to win so getting these two points is very important for us,” said Giants head coach Don Hay.
“I really liked our work ethic tonight and our sacrifice. We blocked a lot of shots and when you do that it shows how much you want to play and how much you want to pay the price.
“We have five hard games in the next little while and to get this win is very important to us.”
The Rebels host the Moose Jaw Warriors tonight at 7:30 p.m.