Oil Kings 5 Rebels 2
The Red Deer Rebels are still alive in their quest to grab a WHL playoff berth, but following a 5-2 loss to the visiting Edmonton Oil Kings Friday they’re clearly on life support.
Heading into WHL action Friday, the Rebels trailed the Brandon Wheat Kings by 10 points in the hunt for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, and despite falling to the Oil Kings didn’t lose any ground to the Wheaties, who lost 6-2 at home to the Saskatoon Blades.
The Rebels didn’t do themselves any favours at the Centrium, grabbing a 1-0 lead on an early goal by Marc Mackenzie but then surrendering back-to-back power-play markers by Oil Kings veteran T.J. Foster less than a minute apart late in the first period and an even-strength tally by Curtis Lazar at 18:57.
“We had a real good start to the game, we came out with a lot of fire and really set the tone for the first 15 minutes,” said Rebels GM/head coach Jesse Wallin.
“The difference in the game was that four-minute stretch. We were down five-on-three against a good team that moves the puck well and they took advantage. And the third goal was a tough one to give up. All of a sudden we’re down 3-1 and we were playing catch-up the rest of the way.”
The Rebels battled back with a second-period goal by Mason Burr — his third of the season — and pressed for the equalizer in the third period but instead gave up a pair of late short-handed, empty-net goals to Oil Kings forwards Rhett Rachinski and Travis Ewanyk.
“We continued to play hard, especially in the second period, but at the end of the night we came up a bit short,” said Wallin. “I certainly thought that the four-minute stretch in the first period was the difference in the game, no doubt.”
The Oil Kings, meanwhile, had already clinched top spot in the Central Division and are close to nailing down first place in the Eastern Conference.
“Red Deer is battling to make the playoffs and we’re trying to improve our playoff position,” said Edmonton head coach Derek Laxdal.
“With the way that Jesse coaches, we knew they (Rebels) would battle hard tonight. They play on you like a dog on a bone and they continued to come at us tonight.
“We took too many penalties and I had flashbacks to early in the season when we were up 3-1 against them and they came back to beat us.”
That wasn’t about to happen Friday, not with the Rebels missing a third of their lineup due to injuries.
“This team (Oil Kings) was in a similar situation three years ago with a lot of injuries,” said Laxdal. “Jesse has done a good job of keeping his team together and some of their young guys look pretty good. All he can ask of them is that they keep playing hard.”
“Even though we were down a couple of goals I knew the kids wouldn’t give up tonight,” he said. “They’ve faced a lot of adversity this season and yet they’ve always been up for the challenge.
“They showed a lot of grit tonight considering the situation that we’re in. They continue to grind it out and that’s all we can ask for as a coaching staff.”
Rebels netminder Deven Dubyk stood out Friday with a 36-save performance, including 17 stops in the first period. Laurent Brossoit made 24 saves.
“Deven was very good for us. I feel bad that we weren’t able to pull it out for him,” said Wallin.
The Rebels return to action Sunday in Calgary against the Hitmen.