That impressive and well-deserved 4-1 win the Red Deer Rebels posted over the defending WHL champion Edmonton Oil Kings last Thursday?
Well, that must seem like a month or more ago to the Rebels following a pair of weekend setbacks, including an ugly 3-1 loss at home to the Prince George Cougars Saturday.
The Rebels’ offence was missing in action Saturday and fired blanks during a 3-0 loss Sunday to the Tigers at Medicine Hat.
“It’s disappointing, especially after playing as well as we did Thursday night,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “The effort we had last night was pretty upsetting. To go from one extreme to the other . . . that was as disgraceful a game as I’ve seen this team play in a long time.”
The Rebels had more jump in their game Sunday, but couldn’t solve Tigers netminder Cam Lanigan and committed a series of mental/defensive errors that ultimately sealed their fate.
“We responded tonight and were better, but we couldn’t score and we had some breakdowns. We didn’t capitalize on some opportunities and we made three detailed mistakes that cost us goals,” said Sutter.
“It comes down to our older players having to be accountable in their actions. I’m not going to point fingers at our younger players, they’re young kids still learning the game at this level. The older guys have to show the way. They can’t be friggin’ erratic all over the friggin’ map.”
The Rebels were assessed all four minor penalties in the opening period but kept their hosts off the scoreboard. Hunter Shinkaruk potted the eventual winner midway through the middle frame and Curtis Valk and Logan McVeigh added third-period goals.
Lanigan stopped all 26 shots he faced, while Patrik Bartosak made 36 saves for Red Deer.
“We were better in the second and third periods tonight, but again there were mistakes made where we just broke down within our system. Those are mistakes we can’t make,” said Sutter.
The Rebels bench boss was disgusted with his club’s showing the night before in front of a sellout gathering of 6,660 at the Centrium.
“That was a huge disappointment. Outside of our goaltender (Bartosak) you can’t say there was one guy who even came close to where he needs to be for our team to have success,” said Sutter following the loss to the Cougars, whose points total is superior to only the Vancouver Giants.
“That is strictly based on the mental part of it and coming to the rink tonight very complacent. The preparation was obviously not where it needed to be. It’s just disappointing.”
The Rebels opened the scoring just 74 seconds into the contest when Joel Hamilton connected from the edge of the crease. But that was it for the hosts, who watched the Cougars get goals from Zach Pochiro and defenceman Daniel Gibb, whose point shot beat Bartosak through a crowd, before the first intermission.
Red Deer was outshot 12-5 in the second period and despite holding a 14-5 edge in shots in the third, seldom threatened and were never close to being in synch. Former Edmonton Oil King Klarc Wilson had the fans racing to the exits when he notched an empty-net goal in the final minute.
Red Deer native and Cougars netminder Mac Engel recorded 31 saves for his fifth win of the season. Bartosak made 21 saves.
“These players don’t get to pick and choose what days they can come here and go to work. We still have guys in that mindset,” said Sutter. “This is major junior hockey. The next level is pro and you have to work for everything you get.
“We got totally outworked tonight. Our forwards, through to a man, were awful and our defence struggled moving pucks. It was a totally bad game overall as a group.”
The Rebels host the Brandon Wheat Kings and Lethbridge Hurricanes Friday and Saturday.
l Rebels defenceman Mathew Dumba didn’t dress for either of the Minnesota Wild weekend games despite being placed on the NHL club’s season-opening roster due to injuries to a pair of veteran blueliners.
The 18-year-old will likely return to the Rebels this week, perhaps as early as today.