MEDICINE HAT — The Red Deer Rebels were Tiger tamers through the first two periods of a Western Hockey League game Sunday, then became the prey in the final frame.
The Rebels were seemingly in control with a 5-2 lead after 40 minutes, but the Medicine Hat Tigers fired three third-period goals — including Matt Bradley’s tying marker with one second remaining — to force a scoreless overtime.
Red Deer eventually pulled out a 6-5 victory on Ivan Nikolishin’s shootout goal, but GM/head coach Brent Sutter wasn’t a happy camper despite securing two points.
“We’re still trying to learn to be a 60-minute team,” said Sutter. “We played well for 40 minutes, actually very good for 40, then we just got away from our game. We just didn’t play the right way in the third and we’re still trying to find our way to be a 60-minute team.”
The Rebels opened a 4-0 lead when Evan Polei notched his second goal of the game — a power-play tally — at 6:25 of the second period. Clayton Kirichenko got the Tigers on the board six minutes later before Adam Musil restored Red Deer’s four-goal cushion with his third of the season at 14:08.
Tigers right winger Evan Mowbray buried a rebound with 14 seconds remaining in the frame, but the Rebels were still in good shape.
Steve Owre connected for the hosts at 8:41 of the third, Chad Butcher pulled the Tigers to within one at 17:23 and Bradley beat Rebels netminder Trevor Martin at 19:59.
Martin went on to stop five shots in the five-minute three-on-three session and stoned all three Tigers shooters — Owre, Butcher and Bradley — in the shootout. Medicine Hat netminder Austin Lotz foiled Michael Spacek but couldn’t stop Nikolishin’s attempt.
“We should have never been in that situation,” said Sutter.
“We were definitely the better team for two periods, then we sat back and got soft on plays.
“As the players said, we have to lock things down whether we’re up a goal or up three goals. We still have things to figure out here.”
Polei, Spacek and Wyatt Johnson scored first-period goals for the Rebels, who host the Seattle Thunderbirds Tuesday.
Martin made 32 saves through 65 minutes, while Lotz stopped 33 shots.
• Team BC, featuring Rebels prospects Brendan Budy and Eli Zummack, defeated Saskatchewan 7-2 Sunday in the bronze-medal game of the Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup.
Budy scored twice for BC, while Zummack drew one assist.
Later in the day, Team Alberta blanked Manitoba 3-0 in the gold-medal contest. The Alberta roster included Red Deer midget AAA Optimist Chiefs forward Josh Tarzwell.