The Red Deer Rebels are in a hole, but it’s hardly an abyss from which they can not escape.
The Rebels played the Medicine Hat Tigers pretty much even up in the first two games of a WHL Eastern Conference quarter-final during the weekend, but dropped a pair of one-goal decisions to their hosts.
The series continues with Games 3 and 4 of the best-of-seven series at the Enmax Centrium Wednesday and Thursday and the Rebels feel they’re due for a break such as the one that decided Sunday’s second game, a sharp-angle shot by Trevor Cox that gave the Tigers a 1-0 overtime win. The Red Deer players can also take solace in the fact that either game — or both contests — could easily have gone their way.
“I think we deserved better and I think for the better part of both games we outplayed them, especially yesterday,” Rebels captain Conner Bleackley said Monday.
“But that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
Sunday’s 1-0 setback was preceded by a 2-1 loss to the Tigers 24 hours earlier. And while the visitors were rock-solid defensively while getting strong goaltending from Rylan Toth, one goal for in two games isn’t going to cut it.
“We have to find a way to score, that’s pretty obvious,” said Bleackley, one of several Rebels who was thwarted by Tigers netminder Marek Langhamer. “Langhamer is a good goalie and it’s just a matter of getting more traffic and more pucks to their net.
“They scored the OT winner by just throwing a harmless puck on net. It found its way in and those are the kind of goals you get at this time of the year.”
Langhamer was particularly impressive in the opening game when he turned aside 31 shots, including 15 in the third period. As Bleackley noted, the Rebels didn’t make life miserable enough for the overage Czech stopper.
“A guy like Langhamer will stop what he can see,” said the Colorado Avalanche first-round NHL draft pick. “We have to get more guys to the net and try to screen him as much as we can. We have to try to throw pucks in his feet and crash and bang. The one goal we did score was a shot from the point and then a rebound. We have to score more greasy goals like that.”
While the Rebels managed just a single marker, they only gave up three. That says something about their defensive play and goaltending.
“They (Tigers) didn’t have much at all, most of their shots were probably dump-ins on net,” said Bleackley. “We just have to keep playing the way we are in the neutral zone and the defensive zone and capitalize on our chances and I think we’ll be successful here at home.”
The Tigers got a big boost from their home-ice fans at the noisy Medicine Hat Arena in Games 1 and 2 and Bleackley is hoping the Rebels will get the same vocal support at the Centrium.
“We’re kind of behind the eight-ball being down by two (games), but I think everybody is pretty intrigued with how we played and we felt we deserved better,” said Bleackley.
“It will be nice to be back at home and get the fans back into it . . . have them on our side. We’re all looking forward to that.”
A fifth game, if needed, will be played back in Medicine Hat Saturday. Sixth and seventh games, if required, will go Sunday at the Centrium and April 7 in Medicine Hat.