MOOSE JAW, Sask. — The Red Deer Rebels fired 13 first-period shots at Zach Sawchenko Thursday without finding twine and the tone was set for the remainder of their WHL clash with the Moose Jaw Warriors.
“We just didn’t finish early and played erratically with a lot of turnovers,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter following a 3-0 Western Hockey League loss to the Warriors before 3,044 fans at Mosaic Place.
Sawchenko finished with 30 saves while posting his first-ever WHL shutout, but Sutter suggested the 17-year-old goaltender had it easier than the stats would suggest.
“We played too sloppy tonight. Our game wasn’t tight and when we play that way we don’t generate enough (scoring chances),” he said. “We had some offensive opportunities but a lot of them were from the outside. We couldn’t have had more than a handful of quality opportunities.
“We just weren’t sharp, not as sharp as we have been.”
Brett Howden notched the eventual winner midway through the opening period and defenceman Tyler Brown beat Rebels netminder Rylan Toth with a power-play shot at 9:21 of the middle frame.
Warriors fourth-year forward Torrin White, for all intents and purposes, put the game out of reach with a late second-period tally.
“It’s not the way we wanted to open this trip, but we just have to move on and get ready for our next game,” said Sutter, whose squad returns to action Saturday against the host Brandon Wheat Kings and closes out the three-game jaunt with a Sunday evening date with the Regina Pats.
“There’s nothing we can do about tonight’s result except just learn from it and recognize where our areas of concern are and where we need to get better.”
The Rebels wasted four power-play opportunities, while their hosts were one-for-six with a man advantage.
Defenceman Haydn Fleury returned to the Rebels lineup Thursday after being reassigned by the Carolina Hurricanes. His presence pushed rookie rearguards Josh Mahura and Austin Strand into the press box.
“With Haydn back it gives us eight healthy defencemen, so we’ll have to manage things differently,” said Sutter. “There’s going to be two guys sitting out every game and it’s not going to be the same two guys every night.”
Joining Mahura and Strand as healthy Red Deer scratches were rookie forwards Brayden Burke and Mason McCarty.
Toth finished with 24 saves and got a positive review from Sutter.
l Mahura is one of 19 WHL players selected by Hockey Canada to play for one of three Canadian teams in the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge Nov. 2-8 Sarnia-Lambton, Ont.
The tournament will be the first to feature three Canadian national teams — Black, Red and White. From 1986 until last year, Canada was represented by five regional teams — Atlantic, Ontario, Pacific, Quebec and West.
The 66 players named to the three Canadian squads were selected by Ryan Jankowski, Hockey Canada’s director of player personnel, together with Joël Bouchard, a member of Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence management group, and regional scouts Donald Audette (Quebec), Brad McEwen (West), Kevin Mitchell (Atlantic) and Kyle Raftis (Ontario).
Mahura, who will play with Team White, attended the national under-17 development camp in Calgary in August and made a positive impression.
“He deserves this,” said Sutter. “He’s a good defenceman and he had an outstanding development camp.”