One solid period didn’t get it done for the Red Deer Rebels in a Western Hockey League contest Saturday at the Centrium.
The Rebels outscored the Vancouver Giants 2-1 while outshooting their guests 17-9 over the first 20 minutes, but came up short in the end, surrendering an overtime goal and falling 6-5 before 5,873 fans despite getting three goals from Adam Helewka.
“I thought our first period was good, but I didn’t think we had a good second period,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter, whose club was outscored 3-1 in the middle frame and trailed 5-3 late in the contest before rallying for a pair of goals to force overtime.
“Getting the two goals to tie it up was certainly a positive, but we didn’t play very well in the third,” added Sutter, who watched his club drop a 4-3 shootout decision to the visiting Lethbridge Hurricanes Friday. “The positive through it all is we got six out of eight points in the four games we played in five nights, with some tough travel mixed in. But again, you can’t give up six goals and think you’re going to win a hockey game. And the penalties … we took some bad penalties tonight, one that put us down five-0n-three and they capitalized on it.”
Helewka gave the Rebels a lead 3:31 into the contest, then, after Chad Lang pulled the Giants even at 11:57, Helewka connected again with just over three minutes left in the opening frame, his shot from the bottom of the circle catching the top of the net.
Lang potted his second of the evening on a two-on-one break barely a minute into the second period and teammate Alec Baur scored from a scramble six minutes later. From there, Dakota Odgers took advantage of poor defensive coverage and made it 4-2 at 12:09, and Michael Spacek pulled Red Deer back to within one with a power-play goal at 14:38, capping a three-way passing play with Conner Bleackley and Ivan Nikolishin.
“There were some turnovers where we didn’t manage the puck properly. We gave up odd-man rushes and they capitalized,” said Sutter.
Ty Ronning ‘s power-play tally at 5:29 of the third period restored Vancouver’s two-goal lead, but with Martin on the Rebels bench in favour of an extra attacker, Helewka completed his hat trick at 19:07, his sharp-angle shot finding its way past Giants goalie Ryan Kubic.
Nikolishin then came up with a pair of big-time plays, stopping a Giants clearing attempt at the blueline and whizzing a shot past a screened Kubic with 12 seconds remaining.
Each team had two shots in overtime and Ronning pulled the trigger on the winner at 3:59, chipping the puck over a fallen Martin.
“Credit to Vancouver, they played hard,” said Sutter. “They came in here and got what they wanted — two points.
“I wouldn’t say we played really well in either of these two (home) games. We had good and bad spurts.
“We have to understand that no matter how much skill we have in our dressing room, we still have to play a team game … we still have to make sure we play the game the right way. Skill doesn’t win you anything if you don;’t play the right way. There’s a team game in place and we have to be a hard-working team.”
Martin finished with 26 saves through 64 minutes. The Rebels directed 48 shots at Kubic.
“We played one good period, the first, when we dominated them,” said Helewka. “Then we got away from our game.
“For sure, there are positives. We played four games in five nights this week and got six points, but at the same time, every point we lose we give a point to the teams we’re battling against for first in our division.”
The Rebels are idle until Wednesday when they open a three-game road trip in Moose Jaw. Red Deer is in a tight race for top spot in the Eastern Conference, trailing front-running Lethbridge by two points and leading third-place Brandon by two.
“Lethbridge is two points up on us with a game in hand. Now we have to make sure that we dig in and try and get those points back,” said Sutter. “We have to go out and play well on the road.”