The Red Deer Rebels went from scintillating to sombre somewhere in between Brandon and Swift Current on the weekend.
After roaring back from a 3-1 deficit and posting a clutch 5-4 win over the host Wheat Kings Friday night, the Rebels rolled into Swift Current and absorbed a 4-0 beating at the hands of the Broncos 24 hours later.
What in the HE double hockey sticks . . . ?
“We got a gusty, character win in Brandon. It was a huge win and a huge confidence boost,” Rebels captain Adam Kambeitz said Monday.
And then . . .
“We turned around in Swift Current and didn’t have quite the effort we were hoping for,” he continued. “I don’t think anyone really expected that and I don’t know if we can really explain why we came out like that. We seem to be struggling against that team this year.”
Rebels GM/head coach Jesse Wallin was also perplexed at his club’s lack of intensity in the second half of their two-game East Division swing.
“We had a strong game in Brandon and the win was something to build off of, and the next night we just didn’t follow it up with the same effort,” said Wallin. “Our attention to detail wasn’t there and really I thought it was one of our poorer games of the season. It was certainly disappointing and I’m not really sure why it happened. The focus in the room before the game seemed to be good. Certainly it felt like we were prepared for the game, but obviously our performance wasn’t where it needed to be.
“The important thing now is it’s over and done with, we don’t have time to dwell on it. We have to make sure we regroup and are ready for our next big game tomorrow night.”
Wallin was referring to tonight’s 7 p.m. meeting with the visiting Calgary Hitmen, who have won seven straight and occupy seventh place in the Eastern Conference with an eight-point lead over the ninth-place Rebels.
While the Hitmen are streaking, the Rebels haven’t won two games in succession since November, a trend they’ll have to buck — and soon — if they hope to catch a playoff berth. Red Deer has made a habit of playing to the level of its opponents in recent weeks, which could bode well for them tonight against a hot club.
“We’ve been struggling against the lower teams but seem to play really against the teams ahead of us,” said Kambeitz. “Against Calgary . . . we always get fired up for a game against them. We don’t like them and they don’t like us. So it’s going to be big home game for us and it’s going to be exciting. Every game for us right now is huge, but especially games against teams that we’re chasing.”
The Rebels can at least start a modest streak with a win tonight and a victory over the visiting Prince George Cougars Saturday.
“When you’re trying to catch teams in the standings and you’re winning one and losing one, you’re not going to make up much ground,” said Kambeitz. “It’s definitely on our minds that we need to start putting some wins together and we’re going to try and get that rolling tomorrow night.
“We have five of our next six games at home and the other one is in Calgary, so we should have lots of energy and should be roaring and ready to go every night.”
Added Wallin: “If you get on a bit of a roll you’re not that far back (of a playoff berth), but the important thing here is we’ve got to accumulate some wins and points. If we get some momentum and get rolling we can pull ourselves back into the mix in a hurry, but we have to have a sense of urgency to do that and we have to pay attention to detail, and that was missing in Swift Current.
“The simple details . . . the execution of things we go through every day has to be there. It has to be an every day and every night thing.”
• The Rebels lost winger Marc Mackenzie to an upper body injury at Swift Current. The big forward, who has a goal and two assists — and is a plus-4 — in six games since joining the club two weeks ago, is listed as week-to-week.