The Red Deer Rebels, coming off a disappointing loss the night before in Vancouver, were in decent shape Saturday night before coughing up a late second-period short-handed goal.
As Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter noted, his club’s energy level faded and the host Victoria Royals went on to post a 6-2 Western Hockey League victory in front of 4,921 fans at Save-On Foods Memorial Arena.
“We got down 2-0 and then got a power play goal late in the first period and were playing pretty well,” Sutter said Sunday. “Then we got a power play late in the second and made a mistake that led to an odd-man rush that they (Royals) scored on. The goal deflated us and after that we were never really the same.”
Tyler Soy (power play) and Greg Chase staked the hosts to a 2-0 lead before the game was 17 minutes olds, but Colton Bobyk pulled the Rebels to within one when he scored a man-advantage marker at 18:48 of the opening frame.
The Royals upped the count to 3-1 when defenceman Chaz Reddekopp scored a power-play tally at 14:12 of the middle session, but once again the Rebels responded as Austin Adamson potted his fifth of the season just over three minutes later.
From there, Brandon Magee notched the fateful short-handed goal at 19:43 and the Royals rounded out their attack with a pair of third-period markers as Soy scored at 3:55 and then completed his hat trick with a short-handed, empty-net goal at 16:31.
Coleman Vollrath turned aside 26 shots in the Victoria net, while Rylan Toth made 28 saves for Red Deer.
The Rebels finished their three-game trip with a 1-2-0 slate, their lone victory coming last Wednesday — 3-2 at Kamloops thanks to a superb performance by Toth.
Red Deer fell 5-4 to the Vancouver Giants Friday, giving up a pair of unanswered third-period goals in the process.
“In Vancouver we were right where we wanted to be, up a goal going into the third period,” said Sutter.
“We just needed to close it off, but we made a couple of mental mistakes that cost us. We took a bad penalty late and those are tough things to kill off.”
Sutter was referring to a kneeing major assessed to defenceman Austin Strand, an infraction that led to the winning goal by Ty Ronning with 58 seconds remaining. Strand was suspended one game for the incident.
“The damage that inflicted on us, we did to ourselves to some degree,” said Sutter. “And yet we do need to play better.
“We have to tighten things up. When we play a tight game and check the right way and stick to how we want to play, to our identity . . . we’re pretty effective. But when we get away from that it hurts us.”
After fashioning a long and successful run, the Rebels have posted just one win in their last six games, a cause for concern but hardly a calamity, as Sutter noted. And it’s not something that took the coaching staff by surprise.
“We were playing so well and doing so many good things,” said Sutter. “But any streak that you’re on, something comes up at some point and as coaches we started noticing certain things that were creeping into our game.
“We were trying to rectify these things with the group and get them straightened out, but we were still having success. Eventually it nails you, and it really did. We’re going through some adversity now, which isn’t a bad thing if you handle it the right way.”
The Rebels didn’t return home from Victoria until very late Sunday and won’t practise until Tuesday, when they’ll start working on correcting what has been ailing them over the last half dozen games and counting.
“We just have to get back to playing our game, being more responsible with and without the puck and making sure we’re not giving up four to six goals a night,” said Sutter. “It seems like everything has compounded recently. Our penalty kill hasn’t been very good the last few games whereas it was really good before.
“And we need our power play to produce. Last night it was a difference for us in a negative way.”
• Captain Conner Bleackley suffered a lower-body injury early in Saturday’s game at Vancouver and didn’t return, nor did he play in Victoria.
“He said it felt better yesterday, but to be honest he has an injury that could keep him out for days or maybe for weeks,” said Sutter. “He won’t skate until Thursday at the earliest, and we probably won’t know the extent of the injury until then.”
The Rebels host the Lethbridge Hurricanes Friday and take on the visiting Prince George Cougars 24 hours later.