Hitmen 5 Rebels 2
CALGARY — The Red Deer Rebels resembled a tired team Sunday, and for good reason.
Playing their third game in three days with a severe shortage of healthy bodies, the Rebels were over-matched against the Calgary Hitmen, managing only 15 shots on goal in a 5-2 Western Hockey League loss before a crowd of 13,100 at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
“The guys worked hard. It was our third game in three nights while being short-handed,” said Rebels GM/head coach Jesse Wallin. “It was a quick turn-around after last night’s game (a 7-4 loss at Edmonton) and going into Calgary against a good team that didn’t play last night . . . they came out real hard, got a quick jump on us and kind of overwhelmed us early in the game.”
Indeed, the Hitmen got a goal from Collin Bowman at 6:26 and a power-play marker from Jake Virtanen just under six minutes later. The Rebels regrouped, however, and captain Adam Kambeitz notched his 16th of the season — on the power play — before the period expired.
“We got our feet moving in the last 10 minutes of the first period and played well through the first half of the second period,” said Wallin.
However, Brady Brassart restored Calgary’s two-goal cushion at 11:48 of the middle stanza. John Persson, with his 23rd of the season, answered for the Rebels early in the final frame but Brassart replied with his second of the game in short order and Jimmy Bubnick sealed the deal with his 32nd in the final minute.
“We made some mental errors that were just due to fatigue,” said Wallin. “We just seemed to get worn down over the course of the game. They (Hitmen) wore us down in the third period. We didn’t have a lot of gas while rolling with 10 forwards for the third game in a row and five defencemen.
“But our guys continued to battle and they played hard.”
Hitmen netminder Brandon Glover made 13 saves, with Bolton Pouliot stopping 25 shots for the Rebels.
The Rebels were officially eliminated from the playoff race Saturday at Edmonton despite staking themselves to 2-0 lead on a first-period goal from Mathew Dumba — his 20th of the season — and Tyson Ness’ 19th of the season 56 seconds into the middle stanza.
The Oil Kings rebounded with goals from Cody Corbett, Martin Gernat and Michael St. Croix over the next 12 minutes and Marc Mackenzie pulled Red Deer even with his third of the season late in the period.
From there, Edmonton’ T.J. Foster connected at 2:51 of the third period and Dylan Wruck potted the eventual winner midway through the frame on a play which drew the ire of Wallin.
“Clearly, the goal should have been disallowed,” said Wallin. “St. Croix bowled over (Rebels goaltender Deven) Dubyk in the crease, took him right out the net and they scored on the play. None of the four officials on the ice saw it and the goal counted. That was a tough goal to give up with about nine minutes to go.”
The Rebels battled back and got a goal from Marc McCoy at 13:57 to pull to within one, but the hosts potted a pair of late power-play tallies — by Kristians Pelss and Corbett — to win by a three-goal margin.
Laurent Brossoit turned aside 24 shots in the Edmonton net, while Dubyk made 36 saves.
“It was a very good hockey game for 50 minutes and then the officiating kind of took over,” said Wallin. “But again, our battle level was good and we played real well. It was a hard fought game and a tough way to decide it on a goal like that.”
The Rebels were minus the services of forward Chad Robinson for the Saturday and Sunday games. Robinson suffered a knee injury during Friday’s loss to the Oil Kings at the Centrium.
Red Deer has three games remaining in the 2011-12 season — Tuesday at Medicine Hat and Friday and Saturday at the Centrium versus the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Oil Kings.