Turns out the Regina Pats can score at even strength.
After going two games with only power play goals, it wasn’t until halfway through the second the Pats scored their first even strength goal of the Western Hockey League Eastern Conference semifinal against the Red Deer Rebels.
In game 3 on Tuesday, the Pats scored three at even strength, two on the power play and one short-handed. The Rebels mustered three goals all game and lost 6-3. The Rebels lead in the best-of-seven was cut in half to 2-1.
Rebels assistance coach Steve O’Rourke pointed to a lack of discipline, which he said hurt the team Tuesday night.
“It wasn’t good enough tonight,” said O’Rourke. “We managed (our discipline) through the Calgary series, but we gave the Pats seven power plays tonight. It’s just unacceptable. The penalties are not good penalties, they’re 200 feet away from our net.
“We clean that up we can slow them down a little bit with momentum, just by not putting them on the power play.”
Though the score was tied halfway through the third period, the Pats had several opportunities and had hemmed the Rebels in their own zone. The Pats peppered Rebels goalie Trevor Martin with 40 shots, 18 coming in the second and 14 in the third.
Two goals in 12 seconds in the third period iced the game for the Pats. Connor Hobbs point shot on the power play gave the Pats the lead and then Rykr Cole tipped in a point shot from Zborovsky to give the Pats the 5-3 lead. Hobbs’ goal was the game winner.
“In the third period they had the push and we didn’t,” said O’Rourke. “We got away from our game and they pushed the pace and dictated it that way. We didn’t respond.”
The offensive outburst from the Pats overshadowed an effective game from Michael Spacek, a Winnipeg Jets draft pick, who had a hand in every Rebels goal. He scored the second goal and assisted on the first and third.
Spacek’s goal came early int he second period when a generous bounce off the end boards from a Brandon Hagel landed right on his stick. With Pats goalie Tyler Brown out of position, Spacek buried the puck in the wide open cage to give the Rebels a 2-1 lead.
“It’s his first time playing North American playoff hockey and it’s taken him a little longer to see what it takes to play here,” said O’Rourke. “Here, our sports are all based on playoffs. Here you’re measured by your playoff success and he’s starting to understand it and how much it takes to play every night. Tonight he was our best forward.”
For the Pats Austin Wagner and Jake Leschyshyn both had a goal and an assist while Chase Harrison and Sergey Zborovskiy both had two assists.
Game 4 of the series goes Wednesday night at the Brandt Centre in Regina. Puck drops at 7 p.m. and can be heard on the Drive. The loss means the Rebels will have at least another home game this series as game 5 is scheduled for Friday at the Centrium.
Notes: Despite a postseason best power play (31.3 per cent), the Pats penalty kill is the worst of the teams left at 73.7 per cent. Similarly the Red Deer Rebels power play is third at 25 per cent while their penalty kill is 13th at 75.8 per cent … NHL Central Scouting released its final rankings. Jeff De Wit was the highest ranked Red Deer Rebel North American skater at 80th, Brandon Hagel was ranked 104th and Colton Bobyk was tanked 204th. Rylan Toth was ranked 16th among North American goaltenders.