BRANDON — The Red Deer Rebels fell apart defensively in the third period of Tuesday’s Western Hockey League encounter with the Brandon Wheat Kings and the end result was predictable.
“We didn’t defend very well in our own zone in the third,” said Rebels associate coach Jeff Truitt, following a 5-2 loss before 3,113 fans at Westman Place.
The Rebels were right in the thick of things, tied at two after 40 minutes. Then came the fatal final frame.
“We fought back to 2-2 and then didn’t defend very well at all,” said Truitt. “We gave up a lot of chances and just didn’t finish things off.
“We have to be harder defensively and limit teams to fewer goals than what we gave up here tonight. Five goals against is too many in this league.”
The Wheat Kings opened the scoring midway through the first period on Quintin Lisoway’s third goal of the season and upped the count to 2-0 when Richard Nejezchleb potted his 23rd — unassisted — 12:48 into the middle frame.
The Rebels battled back with Evan Polei’s fourth of the season at 15:23 of the second period and Grayson Pawlenchuk sniped a power-play goal — his sixth of the campaign — two minutes later to pull the visitors even.
The hosts, however, took a permanent lead when former Rebel Chad Robinson connected at 4:30 of the third period and pulled away on additional goals from Tyler Coulter and Colton Waltz.
Patrik Bartosak made 35 saves for the Rebels, while Wheat Kings netminder Jordan Papirny stopped 29 shots.
The Rebels were one-for-one on the power play, with the Wheat Kings going zero-for-four with a man advantage.
Red Deer continues a four-game road trip tonight with a date with the Regina Pats.
“It’s a short turnaround for us, but the big thing is to make sure we’re better in Regina,” said Truitt. “We’re going to take some things away from this game to learn from.
“The second half of the season is all about playing tight defence and that’s what we need to do and what we have to concentrate on for tomorrow.”
The Rebels conclude their trip with Friday and Saturday dates with the Moose Jaw Warriors and Swift Current Broncos.
Red Deer’s next home game is Jan. 17 against the Calgary Hitmen.