REGINA — The Red Deer Rebels continue to lose precious ground in the WHL Eastern Conference playoff race.
The Rebels suffered a dreadful 6-2 loss to the Regina Pats before 3,364 fans at the Brandt Centre Wednesday to fall five points back of their sixth-place hosts.
Red Deer, in ninth spot, is three points back of seventh-place Kootenay and two behind the Prince Albert Raiders, who sit in eighth spot.
“There were very few positives tonight. We were behind right from the get go and the players have to be scratching their heads over how they’re preparing for games,” said Rebels associate coach Jeff Truitt.
“We can’t continue to start games the way we are and be chasing teams. We talked about being a defensive club here tonight and there were some bright spots, but not very many.”
The Pats got two first-period goals from Chandler Stephenson — the first of which was on the power play — and extended their lead to 5-0 after 40 minutes on a pair of markers from Carter Hansen and a single courtesy of Connor Gay.
Hansen rounded out his hat-trick performance for a 6-0 lead early in the third period before the Rebels closed out the scoring with goals from Conner Bleackley and Grayson Pawlenchuk.
“Our guys have to understand that we’re fighting for a playoff spot and we have to give ourselves opportunities against team to climb up in the standings,” said Truitt. “But when your older guys don’t play the way they need to play, you’re not going to play the best game that you need to.”
The hosts were one-for-eight on the power play, while the Rebels were zero-for-four.
“We talked about being a disciplined team and not giving up power-play opportunities,” said Truitt. “There were some penalties that may have been a little iffy, but that’s no excuse. We’re taking way too many penalties.”
Rebels starting netminder Pat Bartosak struggled while blocking just 10 of 14 shots prior to being replaced by rookie Taz Burman, who stopped 20 of the 22 shots he faced.
“It wasn’t (Bartosak’s) best game by a long shot and we needed to change the momentum (by bringing in Burman). Enough was enough,” said Truitt. “The fact of the matter is there were guys in front of him who needed a character check.”
The Rebels continue their four-game road trip with a Friday night date with the Moose Jaw Warriors, then take on the Swift Current Broncos 24 hours later.
“Our level of intensity has to rise and we have to understand that we’re in ninth spot, that we’re not in the top three,” said Truitt. “We have to make sure we’re playing at a 100 per cent level and make sure that we prepare properly and execute, because the execution tonight wasn’t good.”
l Red Deer’s next home game is Jan. 17 versus the Calgary Hitmen, who made a pre-trade deadline splash Wednesday by acquiring Adam Tambellini’s WHL rights from the Portland Winterhawks for a first-round pick in this year’s bantam draft.
Tambellini, who left the University of North Dakota to join the Hitmen, made an immediate impact with his new club Wednesday night, scoring once and adding three assists in a 6-4 win over the host Saskatoon Blades. The 19-year-old New York Rangers NHL draft pick was selected as first star of the game.
In another Wednesday deal of note, the Prince Albert Raiders picked up overage defenceman Graeme Craig from the Blades, also getting Saskatoon’s seventh-round pick in this year’s bantam draft and a fifth-round selection in 2016 in return for 20-year-old rearguard MacKenzie Johnston, 18-year-old blueliner Tyler Dea and the Raiders’ third- and fifth-round picks in the 2015 bantam draft.
Meanwhile, the Vancouver Giants sent the WHL rights to 20-year-old Slovakian forward Marek Tvrdon to the Kelowna Rockets in exchange for a second-round 2014 bantam draft pick. The Rockets then shipped overage forward Zach Franko to the Kootenay Ice for a sixth-round bantam draft pick this year and a third-round selection in 2016.