CALGARY — The Red Deer Rebels fell one goal short Wednesday, but GM/head coach Brent Sutter felt that the narrow setback might as well have been a five-goal loss.
The Rebels boss wasn’t at all pleased with his club’s performance in a 3-2 Western Hockey League overtime loss to the Calgary Hitmen before 8,246 fans at the Saddledome, a setback that ensured Red Deer will finish no better than third in the Central Division.
The Rebels led 1-0 after 40 minutes on defenceman Colton Bobyk’s fifth goal of the season at 14:19 of the second period, then were outshot 13-7 and outscored 2-1 in the third period.
“We had no push in the third, we just too loosey goosey,” said Sutter. “Our overall game was just OK. Even our first two periods weren’t great, we didn’t play to the standards we need to play come playoff time.
“We don’t want bad habits creeping into our game and tonight I thought we had too many soft players.”
Adam Tambellini pulled the Hitmen even with his 47th goal of the season at 8:06 of the third period and Travis Sanheim gave the Hitmen a lead at 11:24, his shot glancing off the stick of Rebels defenceman Kayle Doetzel and past netminder Rylan Toth.
Riley Sheen forced overtime with his 22nd of the season at 17:02, cashing a prime pass from Rebels linemate Adam Musil. From there, Connor Rankin beat Toth to the short side at 3:59 of overtime.
“The bottom line is we can’t play like this,” said Sutter. “We had some guys who weren’t even close (to their potential) tonight and they’re our older players. In the third period all we did was stand around and watch.”
The Rebels’ penalty kill was perfect at three-for-three, but the team’s power play came up empty at zero-for-six.
“We had lots of chances on the power play but we didn’t work hard enough,” said Sutter. “We didn’t capitalize on our opportunities.
“We can’t let bad habits into our game, we can’t let our compete level and work ethics drop and the structure to our game with the way we’re supposed to play. We got away from that tonight. We had opportunities to close out the game in the first two periods but we didn’t work hard enough to do it.”
Sutter was particularly ticked with the manner in which Rankin scored the winning goal.
“It came down to us quitting on a play,” he said.
Toth finished with 29 saves, while Mack Shields turned aside 23 shots for the Hitmen.
The Rebels close out their regular season schedule with a home-and-home with the Edmonton Hitmen — Friday at the provincial capital and Saturday at the Enmax Centrium.