If this was a preview of the Red Deer Rebels first round playoff series, it won’t be a very long series.
Two days after routing the Lethbridge Hurricanes and get within striking distance of top spot in the Central Division, the Rebels came up short against the visiting Calgary Hitmen, losing 4-2.
“Maybe the group was satisfied to finish second and they want Calgary in the first round,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter.
“I wasn’t pleased with our game, the coaching staff wasn’t pleased with our game.
“We had guys tonight whose game, in 48 hours, dropped off significantly. The toughest thing about tonight’s game was you had to push to get something out of the group. It shouldn’t have been that way.”
Sutter said he expected the group to throw everything they could at the next few games and maybe catch Lethbridge.
“I thought some of our top players tonight weren’t very good. Probably our most consistent line throughout the night was the (Jeff) de Witt (with Braden Putrill and Austin Pratt). The other lines were very sporadic in their play.”
The Hitmen got on the board less than 30 seconds into the game after a point shot from Radel Fazleev was redirected past Trevor Martin by Jackson Houck. Houck finished the night with a goal and an assist.
For the Rebels, Luke Philp set up both goals while Adam Helewka scored his 40th goal of the year.
“Our specialty teams tonight hurt us more than they helped us,” said Sutter. “We gave a power play goal and a short handed goal.
“I didn’t like our game that much.”
A power play in the first proved to be less than beneficial for the Rebels. A three-on-two odd man rush the other way, after Adam Helewka fanned on a point shot, led to the Hitmen’s second goal, a short handed marker. Then in a nasty collision, Michael Spacek sustained an injury and was writhing in pain on the ice. He left the bench, but was back on the bench before the period was out.
A tripping minor to Brandon Hagel set up a Hitman power play, which led to their third goal. Jakob Stukel chipped in Houck’s pass through the crease into an empty cage.
After going down 3-0, the Rebels responded four minutes into the second frame. With Helewka streaking down into the slot and took a feed from Luke Philp from behind the net. Helewa’s wrist shot got past Hitman goalie Cody Porter.
Grayson Pawlenchuk got the Rebels closer after he tipped Nelson Nogier’s shot to cut the deficit to 3-2. The comeback would be cut off from that point forward.
Beck Malenstyn sealed the winwith an empty netter with 10 seconds to go in the game.
The Rebels close out the season with a home-and-home series with the Edmonton Oil Kings. That starts Thursday night in Edmonton at 7 p.m. before coming back to Red Deer on Saturday.
Notes: Two new Rebels appeared on the injury report this week. Forward Evan Polei has an upper body injury and is out week-to-week and forward Taden Rattie has a day-to-day upper body injury. Forward Reese Johnson, defence Josh Mahura and goalie Rylan Toth remain on the injury report … Porter left the game after taking a shot on goal that hit him in the shoulder. Nik Amundrud was brought in to replace Porter.