MEDICINE HAT — Playing their third game in as many nights, the Red Deer Rebels were likely a tired team Sunday.
Brent Sutter, however, didn’t want to hear that.
“We played with some urgency in the third period, but during the first two period there was a lack of a lot of different things. There was a certain acceptance of just wanting to be close here tonight,” said the Rebels GM/head coach following a 5-4 Western Hockey League loss to the Medicine Hat Tigers.
“Being tired is no excuse. They (Tigers) played three in three, too.”
Sutter disliked his team’s lack of discipline. The Tigers, who led 3-1 after one period and 5-2 after 40 minutes, were two-for-nine on the power play.
Curtis Valk opened the scoring just 32 second into the contest with Rebels defenceman Mathew Dumba serving an interference penalty.
Cody Thiel, with his third goal of the season, pulled the visitors even at 6:09, but Miles Koules gave the Tigers a permanent lead roughly five minutes later, then added a power-play tally at 17:39.
Sutter didn’t like either of the first two goals allowed by Bolton Pouliot, who got a rare start in the Red Deer net. But the Rebels bench boss was of the opinion that Pouliot was far from alone as an early no-show.
“At this time of the year your back-up goalie can’t accept being average in games because he hasn’t been playing,” said Sutter. “And the team in front of him can’t accept being average at this time of the year, either.
“That can’t happen. At this time of year you have to get used to playing a large amount of games in a short period of time because that’s the way playoffs are and this is supposed to be playoff-type hockey.”
Conner Bleackley cut the deficit to 3-2 early in the second period, but Valk potted his second of the evening — and 40th of the season — midway through the stanza to restore the Tigers’ two-goal cushion, then completed his hat trick three minutes later.
The Rebels charged back with third-period markers from Bleackley and Brooks Maxwell, but the rally fell short.
“During the first two periods our best player was a 16-year-old forward (Bleackley),” said Sutter. “The onus is on your older players to lead the way and they decided to do that in the third and played well as a group.”
Cam Lanigan turned aside 27 shots in the Medicine Hat goal. Pouliot finished with 33 saves.
The Rebels return to action Tuesday at the Centrium versus the red-hot Saskatoon Blades.