MEDICINE HAT — The Red Deer Rebels have discovered over the last few weeks that scoring goals has been more difficult than pulling teeth.
The Rebels came up empty Tuesday night despite creating some glaring offensive opportunities. The end result was a 4-0 Western Hockey League loss to the Medicine Hat Tigers, who got a 24-save shutout performance from Marek Langhamer.
“We actually had some great chances, we just couldn’t capitalize,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “Goal scoring has been hard for us right now.”
The Tigers got the only goal they needed when Trevor Cox beat Rebels netminder Rylan Toth with a power-play shot at 7:30 of the opening period. Sutter wasn’t impressed with the marker, Cox’s 24th of the season.
“The first goal was not a good goal on Tother, and that all magnifies when you’re not scoring goals yourself,” said the Rebels boss “And yet we had some great chances.”
Matt Bradley connected at 11:10 of the second period, Cox cashed in on a penalty shot two minutes later and Chad Labelle capped the Tigers attack with an empty-net tally with 62 seconds remaining in the game.
Despite the outcome, Sutter wasn’t disappointed with his club’s diligence and attention to detail.
“Our work ethic and our pace was really good here tonight, probably the best we’ve had in awhile,” he said. “Look at our chances . . . we had two breakaways and some other great looks, yet we just weren’t burying them. It’s just something we’re going through right now.”
Toth turned aside 30 shots in a game that was closer than the score indicated.
“They got a penalty shot goal and one into an empty net,” said Sutter. “It’s a two-goal game other than those.”
The Rebels, still minus the services of three key players — forwards Conner Bleackley and Evan Polei and defenceman Colton Bobyk — due to injuries, will attempt to get back on the winning track when they visit the Swift Current Broncos tonight.
“We just have to keep our heads to the grindstone and keep going with it,” he said, suggesting that his club can build off Tuesday’s performance. “Our work ethic and compete level, plus our pace and physical play was very good tonight.”
The Rebels close out their three-game road trip with a Friday meeting with the Kootenay Ice in Cranbrook, then return home to face the Regina Pats Saturday night.
• Toth was honoured this week as the WHL goaltender of the month for February. The first-year Rebels stopper posted a record of 4-3-0-1 in February, along with a 2.46 goals-against average and .922 save percentage, while holding the opposition to two goals or fewer in five of his starts.
Toth earned two first-star honours as well as an additional third-star selection during the month.