Call it a double whammy.
The Red Deer Rebels not only suffered a 5-2 WHL loss to the Tri-City Americans in front of 6,641 fans Saturday at the Centrium, they lost the services of their No. 1 netminder, possibly for a lengthy period.
The Rebels coughed up four goals in a second-period span of just under nine minutes, and Rylan Toth went down with a high ankle sprain during that stretch and never returned.
“Those six or eight minutes cost us the game and unfortunately during that time we lost our No. 1 goalie, too,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter, who has summoned Dawson Weatherill from the midget AAA Red Deer Optimist Chiefs to serve as Trevor Martin’s back-up during a four-game road trip starting tonight in Kelowna.
Toth was injured when former teammate Tyler Sandhu came down the wing, crashed the net and slipped the puck past the Red Deer goalie for a 3-1 Tri-City lead at 17:24 of the middle frame.
Just 12 seconds earlier Jordan Topping connected while alone at the side of the crease, and his goal followed a marker by Michael Rasmussen at 9:45 that pulled the visitors even. Americans forward Beau McCue closed out the period with a goal at 18:27, deflecting a point shot by that glanced off him and then the glove of Rebels rearguard Colton Bobyk and past Martin.
“For that stretch tonight we played like we did last night for 60 minutes,” said Sutter, in reference also to Friday’s 4-1 loss at Calgary. “We were awful in our own zone, there was a lack of communication, we didn’t finish any checks and we were terrible around the front of our net.
“Outside of the span where they scored those four goals, our compete level and work ethic was where we like it to be, and to be quite honest, it was probably 50 per cent better than it was last night when we had no compete.
“But again, you can’t give up four and five goals in games and think you’re going to win. You have to shut it down, you have to defend better. You have to take more pride in that.”
The Rebels were at least the Americans’ equals during a scoreless first period and opened the scoring with a power-play goal from Adam Musil at 8:50 of the second stanza. Luke Philp drew the assist, his slapshot from the high point tipped home by Musil.
But then the home side crashed and burned, and even their urgent push in the third period — in which they outshot their guests 16-3 — wasn’t enough to overcome the large deficit.
“We generated enough offence, we just didn’t capitalize on our opportunities,” said Sutter. “That was the difference, but then you have to have the mindset that we have to win games 2-1 or 3-2. That gets you into the mindset that you can defend the right way, then you can rely on the other aspects that make up your team to make sure you get that one extra goal.”
Evan Polei cut down the left wing and beat Tri-City netminder Nicholas Sanders with a high shot to the short side to cut the visitors’ lead to 4-2 just 44 seconds into the final frame, but Sanders held the fort the rest of the way and Parker Bowles was credited with an empty-net goal at 19:34 when he was hauled down by a Red Deer defender with Martin on the bench.
“The little things that need to be done and executed every night we let slip in the second period and it cost us,” said Rebels defenceman Haydn Fleury.
How the loss of Toth will affect the Rebels might become more clear during the road trip into B.C. Martin will get the start tonight and Sutter isn’t concerned about a lack of focus on his part.
“Unfortunately it’s just the way it’s gone for us this year with all the injuries we’ve had to battle through. But Trevor is a battler and a competitor,” said Sutter.
“There’s nothing we can do about the injury, we just have to get through it and that’s where defending will help us too. I thought in the third period tonight we didn’t give up much and we generated some offence. But again, we have to make a bigger and a stronger commitment to shutting teams down.”
Toth stopped 15 of 18 shots before being replaced by Martin, who blocked four of the five shots he faced. Sanders made 35 saves for the Americans.
The Rebels continue their trip with a Wednesday stop in Kamloops, then take on the Prince George Cougars Saturday and Sunday.
“This wasn’t the way to build momentum before going on the road, but we’re going to go out and play some good teams,” said Fleury. “We have to have our A game ready and have a good road trip.”