Rebels fade after strong start

The Red Deer Rebels looked good very early, but slumped as the game progressed and were soundly defeated by the Edmonton Oil Kings in a Western Hockey League contest played before 3,956 fans on Sunday at Rexall Place.

Oil Kings 6 Rebels 2

EDMONTON — The Red Deer Rebels looked good very early, but slumped as the game progressed and were soundly defeated by the Edmonton Oil Kings in a Western Hockey League contest played before 3,956 fans on Sunday at Rexall Place.

“The first shift of the game we came out hard, we had a strong start. Then we gave up the first goal, which wasn’t a great goal, and we just didn’t respond the right way,” said Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin, following a 6-2 loss in which his club was outshot 53-20, including 20-3 in the third period.

“They (defending WHL champion Oil Kings) are a good hockey team, no question, but we didn’t have nearly enough push back. As a group we just didn’t compete at the level we needed to be at.”

Oilers veteran and star forward Michael St. Croix connected a mere 89 seconds into the contest, a goal that Wallin described as “awful.”

Cory Millette responded for the Rebels at 13:49, but Red Deer netminder Patrik Bartosak gave up another so-so goal just over two minutes later, with Curtis Lazar scoring short-handed.

“Their second one wasn’t great either, short-handed and from the outside,” said Wallin, who otherwise felt Bartosak was fine while turning aside 47 shots.

Besides, the Rebels didn’t provide enough offence to get the job done, a fact that came back to woeful defensive play, said Wallin.

“We have to be better defensively. We want to score more goals, but at the end of the day you have to be good defensively to get the puck back,” said Wallin. “We gave them too much time and space today and weren’t assertive enough as far as finishing checks and shutting them down.”

Lazar connected on a breakaway in the first minute of the middle stanza and St. Croix upped the count to 4-1 with a power-play tally at 8:10. Rebels forward Chad Robinson reduced the deficit to two at 13:10, but Lazar completed his hat trick 52 seconds later and Klarc Wilson notched the lone goal of the third period.

Faced with a difficult early schedule, the Rebels preceded Sunday’s loss with a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the visiting Calgary Hitmen in their regular-season opener Friday.

As a result, Red Deer will take a 0-2 record into next Friday and Saturday games versus visiting Medicine Hat and at Calgary.

“It’s early and we don’t want to panic, but at the same time there has to be a sense of urgency to get the competitive level up to where it needs to be,” said Wallin.

“Today we had certain guys at certain times who played well and battled hard, but overall as a group I thought we just gave them (Oil Kings) too much respect.

“They are a good team and they played well, but I just thought we gave them too much time and space, that we weren’t hard enough on them. We didn’t make it difficult for them to earn opportunities.”

• Laurent Brossoit made 18 saves for the Oil Kings . . . The Rebels were without defenceman Mathew Dumba, who served the first-game of an indefinite suspension after being assessed a checking-to-the-head major in Friday’s game. The length of Dumba’s sentence will likely be revealed today . . . Rebels overage forward Turner Elson left the game early in the second period with a lower body injury. He’s currently listed as day-to-day.

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