CALGARY — The Red Deer Rebels fired 40 shots at Calgary Hitmen netminder Mack Shields Monday at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
That was the good news.
Otherwise, it was a one-sided contest as the Hitmen potted four man-advantage goals en route to a 7-1 Western Hockey League contest viewed by 9,424 fans.
“We took some penalties and they got four power-play goals on us. That was really the difference in the game,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “We had some breakdowns with coverage and their specialty teams won the battle.”
The Hitmen struck early, as Brady Brassart notched his first of three goals on the evening 4:28 into the contest with the Rebels short two men. Adam Tambellini added another power-play marker late in the period to up the count to 2-0.
Adam Musil got Red Deer back into the game with a power-play tally at 5:34 of the middle frame, but Joe Mahon and Brassart connected for the Hitmen 85 seconds apart midway through the period.
“Their two quick goals were off defensive zone breakdowns,” said Sutter.
“Our forwards lost coverage off rushes and you just can’t make those kinds of mistakes at this time of the year.”
Brassard made it 5-1 with a power-play goal at 11:37 of the third period, Greg Chase sniped another man-advantage marker just under five minutes later and Mahon scored his second of the evening with three minutes remaining.
“Five on five we did some pretty good things,” said Sutter. “We increased the pace in the second and third periods but just made too many mistakes.”
Rebels starting netminder Patrik Bartosak stopped 29 of 35 shots before being replaced by Taz Burman with just over three minutes remaining. Burman blocked two of three shots he faced.
“Now we have to move on,” said Sutter, whose team hosts the Edmonton Oil Kings Wednesday, the Vancouver Giants Friday and the Swift Current Broncos Saturday.
Bartosak’s volume of work Monday left him with a franchise-record 1,739 saves for the season. Shane Bendera held the previous record of 1,727 saves, which he accomplished in 69 games during the 1999-2000 season.
After snapping a seven-game losing streak with a 3-2 overtime win Friday at Edmonton, the Rebels fell 4-1 to the visiting Saskatoon Blades Saturday.
Blades 4 Rebels 1
The Rebels scored early but then couldn’t beat Blades goalie Troy Trombley over the final 53 minutes.
Along the way, the hosts committed a costly series of defensive blunders and the Blades took full advantage.
Red Deer captain Conner Bleackley connected 6:32 into the contest, cashing a rebound after linemate Wyatt Johnson crashed the net with the puck in tow. However, Blades forward Chase Clayton converted a centering pass from Brett Stovin five minutes later while all alone in the low slot and the visitors took a 2-1 lead to the intermission after Ryan Graham — uncontested — drove to the net and tipped home a perfect power-play pass from Nikita Scherback at 18:53.
Stovin worked off the wall and beat Bartosak over the shoulder at 8:32 of the middle period and Graham potted his second of the night at 7:10 of the final frame, breaking into the slot and cashing a nifty feed from Scherback.
Meanwhile, the Rebels fired 15 shots at Trombley in each of the second and third periods and came up empty, although the Blades netminder didn’t have to be sensational. Trombley finished with 41 saves, while Bartosak made 24 stops before being replaced midway through the third period by Taz Burman, who blocked all seven shots he faced.
Sutter didn’t like his club’s finish but was more upset at the Rebels’ sloppy defensive play a mere 24 hours after posting a 3-2 overtime win over the host Edmonton Oil Kings.
“Look at the goals we gave up, they were just details to the game,” he said. “You can’t make those kinds of mistakes at this time of the year.
“Last night we take a step forward, then we come home and take a step back. For whatever reason, we don’t play the way we need to play here. We had chances tonight but our details suffered, and that comes down to being focused and mentally sharp. At home we struggle with that.”
Blades head coach David Struch praised his rebuilding squad, which was coming off a 6-5 overtime loss Friday at Calgary and won for just the 16th time this season.
“This was probably our best effort in a weekend we’ve seen all year. We’ve been playing well since Christmas and it is nice to be rewarded,” said Struch.
The Blades were one-for-two on the power play and four-for-four killing penalties.
“Our penalty kill is all about sacrifice,” said Struch. “We have guys who aren’t afraid to get in front of the puck.”
Struch was tickled with Trombley’s performance but noted many of the Red Deer shots were from the perimeter.
“The guys did a good job of keeping the shots to the outside,” said the Blades bench boss. “Our goal against this team was to come back hard through the middle . I can’t tell you how many times we saw three forwards coming back right to the hash marks in our zone and that’s the key to keeping shots to the outside.”