Going from a best-of-seven, to a best-of-three to a winner take all game 7 shows just how close the Red Deer Rebels and Regina Pats have been.
Their Eastern Conference semi-final matchup will reach its conclusion today after six games of tough, competitive hockey.
The Rebels had a 3-2 series lead going in to Sunday night’s game, but were unable to match the Pats’ effort and lost 5-1.
Rebels captain Luke Philp conceded it was a poor effort by the Rebels.
“We all know it and we have to focus on game 7 now,” said Philp. “They were desperate, their will to win was higher than ours. They did everything better than we did. We have to move past it.
“Our will to win has to be higher than theirs. This time of year, Game 7s, anything can happen. We have to be ready and we’ll have a way better effort than we did the other night.”
Giving full credit to the Pats game 6 showing, Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter said he expects to see a very different Rebels team after a lopsided loss on Sunday.
“They played like it was do or die for them,” said Sutter. “We never responded they way we needed to try and close the series out. I’m expecting our team to get its game back to where it needs to be and the emotional level back to where it needs to be.”
Discipline problems that surfaced early in the series weren’t a factor in Games 5 and 6. After taking 14 penalties in Games 3 and 4 in Regina, the Rebels were penalized seven times in Games 5 and 6. In Games 3 and 4, the Pats capitalized six times on the power play. In Games 5 and 6, the Pats power play was held goalless.
The Pats trio of Adam Brooks, Cole Sanford and Sam Steel have combined for 19 goals and 54 points this post-season. For the Rebels Adam Helewka and Jake DeBrusk both have 11 points each, Helewka with seven goals while DeBrusk has five.
Sutter said the biggest advantage home ice affords him is getting the on-ice matchups he wants.
“As far as the players are concerned they have to throw it all out there,” said Sutter.
Defenceman Haydn Fleury said the team will look over at some of Game 6, but doesn’t want to dwell on it too much.
“We have to refocus and get ready to play game 7 on home ice,” said Fleury. “It’s a huge advantage and we’ve used that advantage all playoffs.
“We’re really comfortable here in front of our fans. They’ve been great the whole playoffs, they’ve been loud and getting into the games.”
Despite a lack of Game 7 experience on the Rebels’ roster, Fleury said they will lean on the coaching staff who has been there before.
“They know what to expect,” said Fleury. “They’ll have advice for us and we have to take it to heart. At the end of the day, we have to go out there and play our game. We can’t be too nervous, we can’t be too excited, we just have to go out there and play.
Puck drops on game 7 at 7 p.m. at the Centrium.
Notes: The Rebels have won three and lost two game sevens in their history. Both losses came on the road while the three wins came on home ice.