CALGARY — The Red Deer Rebels roared out of the starting gate Tuesday at the Saddledome.
But as the old saying goes — it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
The Rebels got power-play goals from Rhyse Dieno and Dominik Volek in the first 67 seconds, but didn’t see much of the puck the rest of the evening in a 5-2 WHL loss to the Calgary Hitmen before 5,707 fans.
“We got back to some of our old habits,” said a disturbed Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “We started strong, and not just because we got up 2-0 early, but the way we were playing. But then we got soft and had a lot of turnovers . . . turnovers in our own zone because we spent too much time in our zone.”
The Hitmen rallied from the early two-goal deficit with first-period goals from Linden Penner and Pavel Padakin, who connected on a power play, and moved in front on a second-period tally from Chase Lang.
Radel Fazleev and Jake Virtanen put the game away with third-period goals.
“We’ve become an inconsistent team because we don’t stay with what makes us successful,” said Sutter. “We talk a lot about how we have to play with the team we have. We have some players who are more skilled than others, but they have to play within the team concept.
“Unfortunately, when some players decide they’re on their own program we become soft and don’t finish checks and look like a mediocre team. That’s such an unacceptable thing and certainly not the identity we want from our players when they put the Rebels jersey on.”
Hitmen goaltender Chris Driedger had a relatively easy night with just 16 saves, while Rebels starting goaltender Patrik Bartosak stopped 27 of 31 shots before being replaced by rookie Taz Burman early in the third period. Burman blocked eight of nine shots the rest of the way.
The Rebels take on the Prince Albert Raiders tonight at 7 p.m. at the Centrium.
• Joel Topping of Red Deer, who helped the Optimist Chiefs win the Telus Cup — the national midget AAA championship — at Leduc in 2012, has left the Lethbridge Hurricanes and plans to enrol at Red Deer College in January.
Topping, selected by Lethbridge 41st overall in the 2010 WHL bantam draft, was in his second season as a Hurricanes defenceman.
“I’ve always wanted to become a teacher. Coming back to the Hurricanes (for a second season) is where I wanted to be, but teaching is still a passion of mine. I want to thank the Hurricanes, my teammates and coaches for everything over the past few years and I wish everyone in the organization the best,” Topping said in a press release.