SWIFT CURRENT — Despite the return of No. 1 netminder Patrik Bartosak, the Red Deer Rebels’ post-Christmas slide continued Wednesday.
However, Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter wasn’t bemoaning a lack of effort on behalf of his charges.
“It’s a disappointing way to lose. The game is 3-2, we’re right there and then we take two penalties in a row. We shoot ourselves in the foot over the last 11 minutes of the game,” said Sutter, following a 5-2 WHL loss to the Swift Current Broncos before 1,923 fans at the Credit Union i-plex.
Sutter was referring mostly to a Broncos’ power-play goal by recently-acquired (from the Lethbridge Hurricanes) Jay Merkley at 10:12 of the final frame with Rebels captain Turner Elson and defenceman Brandon Underwood off for tripping and cross checking, respectively.
The Broncos then got an empty-net goal from Colby Cave at 18:50 to seal the deal.
“We did some pretty good things tonight,” said Sutter. “We had some quality scoring chances, but we never capitalized on some great opportunities. But we were making a push and playing well in the third when we gave them a five-on-three and they scored.”
Adam Lowry, who opened the scoring for the hosts with his 28th of the season midway through the first period, Richard Nedomiel and Reece Scarlett also tallied for the Broncos. Matt Bellerive potted both Red Deer goals, in the first and second periods.
Bartosak, who Sutter said “played well” finished with 33 saves, while Eetu Laurikainen made 34 stops for Swift Current.
“It’s a consistency thing, it’s about playing hard for 60 minutes,” said the Rebels bench boss.
“We’ve had some good periods over the last six to eight games but we’ve also taken our foot off the pedal and not stuck with the urgency we’ve needed. Tonight was a better game in that respect, we were more engaged tonight.
“When you’re going through what we’re going through right now you have to be disciplined and tonight we shot ourselves in the foot.”
The Rebels continue their three-game road trip with a Friday engagement with the Saskatoon Blades, then conclude the jaunt Saturday versus the Prince Albert Raiders.
l Just 24 hours short of today’s WHL trade deadline, Sutter picked up 17-year-old forward Hunter Smith Wednesday.
Smith was selected by Brandon in the ninth round of the 2010 WHL bantam draft and was a late cut of the Wheat Kings last fall. He was set to join the Estevan Bruins of the SJHL when he was traded to a team in the northern part of the province, a move that prompted him to instead suit up with his hometown Carlyle Cougars, a senior team with which he scored two goals and collected four points in nine games.
Smith, six-foot and 183 pounds, served as the captain of the Moose Jaw midget AAA Generals last season and had five goals and 20 points in 44 regular-season games and three goals and four points in five playoff contests.
“We feel it’s worth taking a shot and giving him a chance,” said Sutter, after listing Smith. “He knows there are no guarantees and yet we have room to do this with Jesse Miller out (with a concussion) for a long period of time.
“Instead of trading something away for maybe the same type of player, we get him for nothing and go through the process with him. We have to get him into game shape and up to the tempo of playing major junior hockey, but everyone we’ve talked to, including (current Rebels) Devan Fafard and Cory Milllete who have played with him, say he’s a tough, character kid who plays hard every night.”
Meanwhile, netminder Grant Naherniak rejoined the midget AAA Generals Wednesday after being with the Rebels the past three weeks.