The Red Deer Rebels look like a team itching to get out on the road.
The Rebels closed out a six-game Western Hockey League homestand in less than impressive fashion, with Saturday’s 6-5 shootout loss to the Prince Albert Raiders being just a little less humbling than the 4-0 thumping laid down by the Edmonton Oil Kings 24 hours previous.
The Raiders, who were bombed 10-1 the night before in Calgary, were up 5-2 in the third period before Riley Sheen scored twice and Conner Bleackley connected — following a perfect feed from Sheen — to force a scoreless overtime before a recorded crowd of 5,091 at the Centrium.
Then it was on to a shootout, clearly — at least at the present time — not an advantage for the Rebels, who couldn’t beat Raiders netminder Rylan Parenteau on attempts by Sheen and Brooks Maxwell. Rebels goalie Taz Burman denied the visitors’ second shooter, Kris Schmidli, but not the first and third gunners — Simon Stransky and Reid Gardiner.
“At the end of the day we didn’t play very well for two periods,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “Our compete level this weekend dropped off from the way we need to play.
“The kids dug in in the third and got it back, yet as you know the shootout hasn’t been one of our strengths this year, for whatever reason. We have guys who are skilled players, but they’re having a tough go in the shootout.”
The Rebels led 1-0 after one period on Grayson Pawlenchuk’s ninth of the season, but trailed 2-1 early in the second frame as a shot by Schmidli deflected off the stick of Rebels defenceman Brett Cote and past Burman and Matteo Gennaro buried a rebound 54 seconds later.
Presten Kopeck evened the score at 7:31 with a backhand from close range, but Gardiner found the back of the net with a deflection of a Jesse Lees power-play shot at 16:03 and Sean Montgomery beat Burman high on a two-on-one break at 19:08.
The Raider upped the count to 5-2 when Gardiner cashed a rebound 1:33 into the third period, setting the stage for the Rebels’s late rally.
Sheen deposited a rebound just 12 seconds after the Raiders’ fifth goal, then picked the far corner from the right faceeoff circle at 8:10 with Prince Albert’s Brendan Guhle serving a hooking penalty.
Sheen fed Bleackley in the low slot five minutes later and the Red Deer captain buried the pass with a one-timer. In the end, though, the Rebels’ late charge netted them just a single point.
“Getting one point out of four at home this weekend was disappointing. We need to be better than that,” said Sutter. “Our compete level this weekend certainly dropped from where it has been the better part of the whole season.”
The Rebels head west Tuesday for games Wednesday, Friday and Saturday versus the Kamloops Blazers, Vancouver Giants and Victoria Royals.
“That might be a blessing — to get out to B.C. and start dong some team things and get our focus back to where it needs to be,” said Sutter.
“When you play a lot of games in a row at home, at times a little complacency can set in. It was a concern going into this long homestand. You always worry about that from a coaches standpoint and it was kind of a reality here these last two games.”
• Rebels defenceman Haydn Fleury suffered a deep cut on his leg in the first period and didn’t return. His status will apparently be determined today . . . Burman finished with 25 saves, seven fewer than Parenteau . . . The Rebels trail the second-place Calgary Hitmen, 5-1 winners over Edmonton Saturday, by one point in the Central Division . . . Red Deer’s next home game is Feb. 13 versus the Lethbridge Hurricanes.