Rebels shutout Raiders 3-0 to open playoffs

Rebels 3 Raiders 0 True to form, Red Deer Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter wasn’t giddy regarding his club’s WHL playoff win Friday before 5,492 fans at the Centrium.

Rebels 3 Raiders 0

True to form, Red Deer Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter wasn’t giddy regarding his club’s WHL playoff win Friday before 5,492 fans at the Centrium.

Sutter wasn’t getting ahead of himself and his message to his team was the same following a 3-0 victory over the Prince Albert Raiders in the opening game of a best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final.

“We got a win in Game 1 and that’s all it is,” said Sutter, whose team led 2-0 after one period and got some extra breathing room when Cody Thiel connected in the second stanza.

“At times we played well and at times we weren’t as sharp as we need to be. We need to be better in some areas, no question.”

The Rebels were obviously superior to the visitors in the offensive zone, getting the only goal they would need a mere 25 seconds into the contest when Brooks Maxwell deflected Brady Gaudet’s point shot past Raiders netminder Luke Siemens.

Rhyse Dieno, three minutes after coming up empty on a penalty shot, made it 2-0 at 19:04 of the opening frame, finishing a two-on-two break with Turner Elson by whipping a shot over a fallen Siemens.

The Rebels ran into penalty problems in the second period, but were able to kill off three minor infractions — including a lengthy two-man disadvantage — in the first eight minutes.

Then, with 1:25 remaining in the period, Thiel, from the side of the net, chipped a puck past Siemens and the Rebels had a relatively comfortable lead.

The Raiders had their opportunities on the power play and five-on-five, but Rebels stopper Patrik Bartosak was a constant source of frustration for the visitors.

Bartosak made 31 saves for the shutout, including a breakaway stop on Mike Winther in the second period and a brilliant glove stab on Anthony Bardaro late in the game.

“He’s always been a great goaltender for us and he’s a good guy to have back there,” said Elson. “We rely on him a lot.”

The Rebels, who fired 30 shots at Siemens, struggled at times in the defensive zone and the outcome might have been different if not for the team’s penalty kill, which was a perfect seven-for-seven.

“We’re playing a very good, well-coached hockey team and we need to be sharper with some of the things we do,” said Sutter. “We have to be a better disciplined team. We took seven minor penalties tonight and you’re playing with fire when you do that.

“Our penalty kill tonight was obviously huge and our power play (zero-for-five) has to be better. But again, you’re in dangerous territory when you take that many penalties.”

Elson agreed with his coach.

“We can’t take that many penalties,” he said. “That shows we’re not moving our feet and doing things right.”

The Rebels captain suggested that his team played just well enough to win.

“We played all right. We did a good job in the first period, made it hard on them and got a couple of goals,” he said.

“But we have to play better. They’re a good team that battles hard and pushes you all game. We have to make sure we can handle that and keep going throughout the game.”

Game 2 is tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Centrium and, as Winther noted, the Raiders will have to improve — particularly in man-advantage situations — in order to avoid heading home in a deep hole.

“We definitely have to get the power play going,” said the Trochu native and Dallas Stars draft pick. “We had quite a few chances to get back in the game with the power play and just couldn’t capitalize.

“We just have to regroup and come back tomorrow with a better attitude and hopefully come out with a win.”

Sutter expects to see a tougher, more determined Raiders team tonight.

“I’m sure they’re going to play a lot better tomorrow night, just as we will need to,” he said.

• Advocate’s three stars: (1) Bartosak . . . Just another day at the office for the Czech goaltender; (2) Dieno . . . A goal and an assist in the opening period; (3) Haydn Fleury . . . Rebels defenceman lugged the puck with authority and was seldom out of position.

gmeachem@bprda.wpengine.com