Rebels squander two-goal lead in shootout loss to Pats

Pats 4 Rebels 3 (SO) There’s something about a two-goal lead that doesn’t agree with the Red Deer Rebels.

Pats 4 Rebels 3 (SO)

There’s something about a two-goal lead that doesn’t agree with the Red Deer Rebels.

For the third time in four WHL home games dating back to Oct. 30, the Rebels coughed up a two-goal cushion Friday at the Centrium. The Regina Pats were the beneficiaries this time, rallying for a 4-3 shootout win in front of a recorded gathering of 4,650.

And how about those second periods?

“Second periods are what’s hurting us. It’s been that way all year for us and I can’t really pinpoint why it’s happening,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “We’re not the same team in the second periods as we have been in the first periods.”

The Rebels were outscored 3-1 in the second frame and really weren’t that good in the first, either, yet held a 2-0 lead at the first intermission despite being outshot 14-4.

The Pats battled back to gain a 3-3 tie through 40 minutes and following a scoreless third period and overtime stanza, Boston Leier scored the lone goal of the shootout to give the visitors the extra point.

While the Rebels directed 30 shots at Pats netminder Dawson MacAuley, they struggled defensively.

“We had a lot of turnovers tonight, 18 in our own zone in the first two periods and they have some forwards who can make plays,” said Sutter. “We were just losing battles along the boards and throwing pucks away.”

The Rebels didn’t record their first shot of the evening until 13:22 of the opening frame — and were being outshot 11-0 to that point — but made their next two shots count, as Adam Musil flipped a rebound over MacAuley and Dominik Volek scored from the point after taking a drop pass from Rhyse Dieno.

The second goal was reviewed for close to 10 minutes as the puck exited sideways through the net.

Chandler Stephenson beat Red Deer netminder Patrik Bartosak with a backhand two minutes into the second period, but Brooks Maxwell restored the Rebels’ two-goal lead five minutes later, taking a great feed from Dieno and racing in on a breakaway.

The Pats, however, pulled to within one on Geordie Maguire’s fifth goal of the season at 8:17 and Dyson Stevenson sniped a power-play equalizer at 12:02, beating Bartosak on the short side with a slap shot from the faceoff circle.

Red Deer controlled the overtime, with the puck seldom leaving the Pats zone, but MacAuley stopped all five shots he faced.

“We got to overtime and we were fine,” said Sutter. “But five-on-five we have to be better.”

The setback dropped Red Deer’s home-ice record to 4-6-0-2. The Rebels are 7-6-0-0 away from the Centrium.

Since recording four wins in succession, the Rebels have now dropped two straight, both at home.

“We were getting our game going here after coming home off our road trip but we’ve got back to some of our old habits again,” said Sutter. “I can’t really pinpoint what it is. Maybe there’s distractions, I don’t know, but we have to find a solution to it because we’ll be in tough to make playoffs if we can’t be better than that at home.

“You have to win games at home and you have to be above a .500 hockey team at home, and right now we’re two games below .500. There are reasons for it and we have to try and find solutions. We’re talking to the kids and trying to work through it, but they seem to be struggling right now.”

The Pats directed 40 shots at Bartosak, who came up with a series of big saves but also gave up two goals that he seldom allowed last season.

Still, he was the reason the Rebels got to overtime despite being heavily outshot in the opening period and 40-30 overall.

“We’ve show a lot of resiliency and a lot of character in being able to come back from deficits,” said Regina assistant coach Josh Dixon. “We just came off a big six-game road trip and we were able to come back in some of those games.

“It certainly is nice to get the two points and nice to find ways to win, but at the same time that’s not a formula for success. We felt both of Red Deer’s first-period goals were preventable and had we blocked shots and stuck with our man we would have prevented them. It’s nice to come back but we don’t want to be digging ourselves a hole.”

l Leier was the lone player to score in the shootout. Bartosak stopped Morgan Klimchuk, while MacAuley denied Red Deer shooters Matt Bellerive, Conner Bleackley and Dieno . . . The Rebels return to action tonight at the Centrium versus the Prince George Cougars, who thumped the Oil Kings 8-3 Friday at Edmonton.