Game 1 and Game 2 were basically a carbon copy of each other for the Red Deer Rebels.
They withstood the early onslaught from the Brandon Wheat Kings, controlled the game for stretches and even held leads with single-digit minutes left in the third period.
But, the Rebels find themselves down 2-0 in the Western Hockey League Eastern Conference final as the series switches to Red Deer.
Defenceman Haydn Fleury said the team feels a little refreshed after playing a lot of hockey over the past two weeks. After a gruelling seven game series against the Regina Pats, the Rebels were on the ice two days later against the Wheat Kings. With an off-day Sunday, the Rebels were back at practice Monday afternoon.
“Tuesday is a new challenge, we have to win on home ice and we’re comfortable with that,” said Fleury. “We have to limit their chances. We can’t give up 10 goals in two games, that puts a lot of pressure on us to score that many goals. We need to tighten up defensively.
Giving up 10 goals in two games is out of character for the Rebels are undefeated this post-season when they have limited opponents to three goals or fewer.
But the feeling through the first two games is the Rebels were able to match the intensity the rested Wheat Kings had.
“Those games, I thought we played really well,” said Defenceman Kayle Doetzel. “I thought our game was where it needs to be. They got a couple of bounces and a couple of more goals than us, but for the most part if we stick to our game we’ll do fine.”
Doetzel believes the team can shut down the high-flying Wheat Kings attack.
A hit-or-miss power play led to only two special teams goals on 11 attempts for the Rebels. Fleury said the work had to include getting bodies to the net and shooting the puck more.
“We had some good timely goals during the games, but I think we need have more of them,” he said.
Fleury scored twice over the weekend including a game-tying goal with 4.1 seconds left in the third period of Game 1.
Forward Jake DeBrusk said there will be some desperation in the Rebels play in Game 3, saying they can’t afford to lose the next game.
“It’s do or die, we can’t let them have a 3-0 lead or a 3-1 lead,” said DeBrusk. “It will be desperate times. But we just have to bring our all and play to our identity. Whenever we shifted away from our identity, they made us pay. Throughout the playoffs, whenever we’re off our game it has been bad.
“We have to play our style and we’ll be fine. This time of year home-ice advantage is huge. I don’t see it as a huge panic that they’re up 2-0, they have home-ice for a reason. But this is the biggest two games of the series. We know when a team comes back with two wins, it puts you a bit on your heels.”
Game 3 of the best-of-seven showdown starts at 7 p.m. tonight at the Centrium.