Photo by ASHLI BARRETT/Advocate Staff

Photo by ASHLI BARRETT/Advocate Staff

Rebels on the brink after OT loss to Hitmen

The almighty hockey god was not a Rebel Tuesday night at the Centrium. The Red Deer Rebels rallied from a poor first period to carry the play through the next 40 minutes, but in the end dropped a 3-2 WHL overtime decision to the Calgary Hitmen. Hitmen captain Cody Sylvester, all by his lonesome, cashed a rebound to give the visitors a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal.

The almighty hockey god was not a Rebel Tuesday night at the Centrium.

The Red Deer Rebels rallied from a poor first period to carry the play through the next 40 minutes, but in the end dropped a 3-2 WHL overtime decision to the Calgary Hitmen.

Hitmen captain Cody Sylvester, all by his lonesome, cashed a rebound to give the visitors a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal.

Game 5 goes Thursday at the Saddledome in Calgary.

“It’s a loss and obviously it puts us down two games in the series,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter, whose squad trailed 2-0 after one period then drew even while dominating the second.

“Our battle level and compete level for the second and third periods were very good, but our first period was something that’s inexcusable. We just weren’t good at all,” Sutter continued.

“Then you have to rattle some chains and then they play. You don’t like seeing that at this time of the year, where you have to push guys to do it the right way”

The visitors connected on the power play six minutes into the game when Jake Virtanen squeezed a puck past Rebels goaltender Patrik Bartosak while stationed at the post.

Brooks Macek cashed a rebound seven minutes later and it was 2-0.

The Rebels, though, got rolling in the second stanza after Dominik Volek beat Calgary goalie Chris Driedger at 2:32 during a Red Deer power play. With Hitmen forward Zane Jones off for boarding, Volek moved into the faceoff circle and picked the far top corner.

Less than three minutes later, Conner Bleackley tipped home a power-play point shot by Haydn Fleury and the Rebels ruled the remainder of the period, outshooting their guests 18-4 through the stanza.

“In the second and third the kids did a lot of good things and in overtime we had a couple of opportunities,” said Sutter.

Rhyse Dieno had the best chanee, but by the time he got his relay away from 15 feet out, Driedger was in position to get his pad on the shot.

“Dieno had an opportunity right in the slot. He’s a goal scorer. He has to bury that for us,” said Sutter. “Then we make a mistake by giving up an odd-man rush and they capitalize. Maybe, in some way, the hockey gods got even with us for having a first period like we had tonight.

“That’s a period you see in exhibition hockey and shouldn’t see at this time of the year.”

In the end, Sylvester, the Hitmen captain, sealed the deal and put his squad in position to conclude the series at home Thursday.

“We call him ‘captain clutch’ in the dressing room and he definitely lived up to his name tonight,” said Driedger, who finished with 36 saves, eight more than Bartosak.

The Rebels were indeed the better club for more than half the game — as was the case the night before in a 2-1 overtime win — but as captain Turner Elson noted . . .

“In playoffs you have to play a 60-minute game. We were gawd-awful in the first period, that was probably the worst period we’ve played in a long time and we can’t have that happen in the playoffs. That’s our fault and that’s something we have to live with right now.”

Elson insisted he and his teammates will need a better start Thursday.

“We need everybody energized, everybody ready,” he said. “This is do or die. We want to keep winning, we want to keep playing. It’s going to be tough but we have to find a way to do it.”

Sutter will do his best to make sure his charges are ready to roll in Game 5.

“This series is far from over. We’re going into their rink with the mindset that we have to win one game and try to get it back here Saturday (for a sixth game),” said the Rebels boss.

“We’ve lost three games and won one and every game has been tight. We have to be prepared to play (Thursday) and try to bring the series back here.”

• The Hitmen got away with a blatant trip with less than two minutes left in regulation time, a missed call that didn’t please Sutter and enraged the vast majority of the 5,633 fans in attendance . . . The Edmonton Oil Kings are up 3-0 in the other semifinal after hammering the host Medicine Hat Tigers 9-2 Tuesday. . . Advocate’s three stars: (1) Driedger . . . Turned aside 16 shots in the second period to keep the score deadlocked at two; (2) Bleackley . . . Red Deer rookie scored once and continued to show why he’ll be a physical force over the next few seasons; (3) Sylvester . . . Potted the winner.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Alberta vaccine rollout expanding to front-line health-care workers

More than 240,000 eligible health-care workers can begin booking vaccine appointments starting… Continue reading

File photo
The Red Deer Rebels will have three new assistant coaches when the WHL regular season starts on Friday. Brad Flynn (left), will be on the bench alongside fellow assistant Ryan Colville (right) head coach Brent Sutter (middle). (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Sutter steps down as Red Deer Rebels head coach

Red Deer Rebels Owner, GM and head coach Brent Sutter has stepped… Continue reading

Premier Jason Kenney announced $200 million more money that will benefit seniors living in continuing care on Wednesday. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta’s in-school rapid screening test program expanding

Alberta’s in-school rapid screening test program will expand to as many as… Continue reading

Parents and students learned Tuesday what the coming school year will look like. It's pretty much back to business as usual, said Education Minister Adriana LaGrange. School precautions include frequent cleaning, keeping students in the same groups where possible, planning the school day to allow for physical distancing and staying home when sick. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta’s largest school board says no to United Conservative draft school curriculum

CALGARY — Alberta’s largest school board says it will not use the… Continue reading

Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan is among those who have signed an open letter criticizing the government’s return to stricter health measures. (Advocate file photo).
Updated: Kenney tells UCP caucus COVID-19 dissent OK, breaking health rules means expulsion

15 MLAs released letter on Wednesday critical of new health restrictions

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau watches a speaker appear by videoconference during a news conference in Ottawa, Friday, April 9, 2021. Grassroots Liberals have overwhelmingly endorsed a resolution calling on the federal government to develop and implement a universal basic income — despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's apparent lack of enthusiasm for the idea. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau winds up Liberal convention with election campaign-style speech

OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau wound up a three-day Liberal convention Saturday with… Continue reading

Team Canada skip Brendan Bottcher makes a shot against Italy at the Men's World Curling Championships in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, April 6, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Men’s world curling championship in Calgary in COVID limbo

CALGARY — The men’s world curling championship in Calgary remained suspended Saturday… Continue reading

Pipes intended for construction of the Keystone XL pipeline are shown in Gascoyne, N.D. on Wednesday April 22, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alex Panetta
Non-profit Quebec law centre to aid environmental group targeted by Alberta oil firm

QUEBEC — The Quebec Environmental Law Centre is coming to the aid… Continue reading

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Conservatives cite empathy, relationships as ways to help expand their movement

OTTAWA — Conservatives should show empathy with Black residents who say they’ve… Continue reading

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. New Democrats are reconvening for the second day of a three-day policy convention as they look to push past the glitches of the virtual event's opening sessions and rally around keynote speaker John Horgan. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
New Democrats reconvene as hiccups, frustrations plague national policy convention

OTTAWA — New Democrats reconvened Saturday for the second day of a… Continue reading

FILE - In this Monday, Oct. 23, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump speaks during a joint statement with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. Former President Donald Trump plans to affirm his commitment to the Republican Party — and raise the possibility that someone else will be the GOP's next presidential nominee — in a closed-door speech to donors Saturday night, April 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
Trump in 2024? He says only that ‘a Republican’ will win

PALM BEACH, Fla. — Former President Donald Trump plans to affirm his… Continue reading

A cruise ship sits docked waiting for passengers to be evacuated in Kingstown, on the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent, Friday, April 9, 2021 due to the eruption of La Soufriere volcano. (AP Photo/Orvil Samuel)
Ash-covered St. Vincent braces for more volcanic eruptions

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent — People who ignored an initial warning to evacuate… Continue reading

Owner of 4 Point Taekwondo Kevin Mejia holds a board as organizer and martial artist Kevin Olsen breaks it in Edmonton on Friday, April 9, 2021. One hundred martial artists from around the world, will be breaking a board for an event called "Break for a Breakthrough." The idea is for martial artists to unite and re-engage with the arts because they may have drifted away or lost enthusiasm as a result of the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Break for a Breakthrough: Canadian hosts international martial arts demonstration

EDMONTON — Whether he’s breaking a wooden board, a clay tile, cement… Continue reading

Most Read