KAMLOOPS — The Red Deer Rebels’ insistence on playing a perimeter game was the perfect tonic for a Western Hockey League team looking for its first victory.
The Kamloops Blazers posted their initial win of the season Tuesday, downing the Rebels 3-1 before 3,015 fans despite being outshot 32-21 overall. Naturally, winning netminder Connor Ingram was named first star of the game.
“We had scoring chances tonight but we’re not scoring goals because we’re not bearing down enough and we’re not getting dirty enough and greasy enough in the offensive zone,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter.
“We had some quality scoring chances, we just didn’t capitalize. It was ridiculous, especially in the second and third periods. There are nights we make the other goalie look good because we’re not heavy enough around the net. We’re not paying the price.”
All the scoring came in the opening period, with Blazers forward Colin Shirley connecting first at 7:15.
Michael Spacek answered for the Rebels 54 seconds later, converting a feed from Ivan Nikolishin. But three consecutive penalties to the visitors, including a double high sticking infraction assessed to Kayle Doetzel, led to a pair of Blazers power-play markers just under two minutes apart.
Dawson Davidson connected at 12:49 and Nick Chyzowski followed at 14:28, spelling the end of Rebels goaltender Rylan Toth’s night. Toth’s save percentage took a beating as he stopped just two of five shots before being yanked.
“The penalties were costly,” Sutter conceded. “But it’s still three goals on their first five shots of the hockey game. I didn’t think Tother was particularly sharp and I had to take him out. You don’t want to have to do that, but he wasn’t sharp and we weren’t sharp as a team.”
Trevor Martin replaced Toth and stopped all 16 shots he faced the rest of the way. Meanwhile, the Rebels failed to solve Ingram despite directing 25 shots at the Kamloops stopper over the final two frames.
As Sutter noted, it was the lack of aggression in the offensive zone that kept them off the scoresheet.
“That’s why certain individuals haven’t scored and some guys have one goal eight games into the season,” said Sutter, whose club dropped to 5-3-0-0.
“If they’re being scored against, that’s where it becomes a problem. If you’re not scoring goals, you better be really good in the other end and in the neutral zone, and some guys are fighting it in those areas right now.”
Special teams favoured the Blazers, who were two-for-five on the power play and five-for-five on the penalty kill.
The Rebels continue their four-game B.C. Division trip tonight with a date with the defending league champion Kelowna Rockets.
• Earlier in the day, the Blazers named former Edmonton Oilers director of amateur scouting Stu MacGregor as the club’s vice president and general manager.
MacGregor replaces Craig Bonner, who resigned and then joined the Dallas Stars scouting staff.