LETHBRIDGE — Red Deer Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter didn’t have to search for words while describing his club’s performance in a 5-2 WHL loss to the Lethbridge Hurricanes Tuesday.
“We weren’t very good tonight,” the Rebels boss stated following his team’s first setback of the season. “We had a lot of not very good players.
“Right from the opening faceoff, there was no intensity, no emotion, no push. Our best players were the worst players on the ice. When that happens, it’s not a good sign.”
Tyler Wong’s sixth goal of the season — a power-play marker — at 7:52 of the opening period provided the ‘Canes with a lead they never relinquished.
The Hurricanes stretched their lead to two when Egor Babenko connected midway through the second period. Rebels forward Brandon Hagel potted his first-ever WHL goal, on the power play, at 12:09, but whatever momentum the visitors enjoyed was wiped out when Red Deer native Andrew Nielsen answered for the ‘Canes just over three minutes later.
Nielsen’s tally came with Rebels defencemen Kayle Doetzel and Haydn Fleury in the penalty box.
Clearly, discipline was not one of Red Deer’s strong points Tuesday.
“That comes with not being mentally prepared to play the game the right way,” said Sutter. “The play of our penalty killers reflected our five-on-five play.
“We didn’t compete or work very hard. We didn’t make the sacrifices you need to make to win.”
Nielsen, a defenceman who was selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the third round of June’s NHL entry draft, increased the Hurricanes’ lead to 4-1 with another power-play goal at 9:24 of the final frame.
From there, Adam Musil potted his first of the season for the Rebels at 18:39 and Wong scored into an empty net with one minute remaining.
The Rebels, with goaltender Trevor Martin making his regular-season debut, were outshot 40-29, including 19-4 in a putrid second period.
“We just didn’t do anything, we just stood around and watched and took some penalties,” said Sutter, who was referring to his team’s second-period play but didn’t see any positive signs through the entire 60 minutes.
“It’s like we were a little complacent being four and zero. Over the last 48 hours we’ve talked to the kids about how we didn’t play very well for 30 minutes of the Kelowna game (a 7-4 Rebels win Saturday at the Centrium). Tonight it was 60 minutes that we didn’t play well.”
Jayden Sittler, another Red Deer minor hockey product, turned aside 27 shots in the Lethbridge net. Martin made 35 saves for Red Deer.
“We didn’t give our goaltender much support tonight,” said Sutter. “Overall, he was fine.”
The Rebels hook up with the Calgary Hitmen in a home-and-home set starting Friday at the Saddledome and concluding with a Saturday match at the Centrium.