Rebels run out of gas against Chiefs

The Red Deer Rebels ran out of gas Saturday afternoon and were leaking oil in a big way down the stretch. The energy spillage resulted in a 5-3 loss to the Spokane Chiefs in a Tri-City Americans’ Western Hockey League preseason tournament contest.

KENNEWICK, Wash. — The Red Deer Rebels ran out of gas Saturday afternoon and were leaking oil in a big way down the stretch.

The energy spillage resulted in a 5-3 loss to the Spokane Chiefs in a Tri-City Americans’ Western Hockey League preseason tournament contest.

“Part of it is that we were a tired team, I thought,” Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter, who watched his club surrender five third-period goals to the Chiefs following a 5-3 win over the host Americans Friday night, said Sunday. “We played two games in less than 24 hours and Spokane didn’t play on Friday.

“I thought we looked tired and we had to play a short bench because it was a fast-paced game. I thought some of our kids got over-worked in certain areas. A couple of our younger forwards had a tough time so I didn’t play them as much. We were down to about eight forwards last night.”

The Rebels opened the scoring when rookie forward Austin Pratt notched a first-period power-play goal. Red Deer upped the count to 2-0 on Josh Mahura’s second-period man-advantage marker and added to the lead on a Grayson Pawlenchuk power-play snipe 1:03 into the final frame.

The Chiefs followed with a power-play goal from Markson Bechtold 45 seconds later and then poured it on with extra-man markers courtesy of Curtis Miske, another from Bechtold, and Riley Whittingham for a 4-3 lead. Jaret Anderson-Dolan added insurance with an even-strength tally at 17:20.

“The great thing about it is that it really sorts itself out when you’re in a situation like that,” said Sutter, in reference to the late collapse. “These last two games have made it more clear about where we’re going moving forward. “There was a lot of positives on this trip. We got a good take on some of our veterans Friday night and yesterday’s game was a fast, up-tempo game, a great challenge for some of our younger guys. It showed where they’re at and where they have to get to.”

Pratt scored once and added an assist in Friday’s win, while Presten Kopeck and Colton Bobyk each contributed a goal and two helpers, Ivan Nikolishin had a goal and an assist and Reese Johnson notched the other Red Deer goal.

Tyler Morrison, Juuso Valimaki and Brett Leason scored for the Americans.

All in all, it was an impressive weekend for Pratt.

“Austin played well,” said Sutter. “There are things in his game we have to work with him on to become a better player, but the thing is you have to keep reminding yourself that he’s only 16.

“He’s big and strong and he knows how to play. He’s smart, it’s just getting him to understand what he is as a player. His work ethic and compete level allows his skills to surface. If he goes the other way it affects him, but when he does those things he has the puck a lot more and has opportunities to score goals.

“I was really happy with Austin. I thought he had a really good weekend.”

The Rebels, with eight players attending NHL camps, carried their Friday momentum over into Saturday’s contest, then fell flat down the stretch. Sutter wasn’t surprised.

“The reality is, in situations where teams don’t have a lot of veterans at NHL camps, they are going to win these preseason games,” said the Rebels boss. “That’s just the way it works.

“But it was a great experience for our younger kids . . . just making the trip down and going through it all.”

• Rylan Toth was the winning netminder Friday, turning aside 32 shots. Trevor Martin made 25 saves in a losing effort Saturday.

The Rebels, 1-2 in exhibition play, close out their preseason schedule this Friday and Saturday versus the Edmonton Oil Kings at the Centrium and the Medicine Hat Tigers in Stettler.

Red Deer’s regular-season opener is Sept. 26 versus the visiting Oil Kings.

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