While it’s a limited sample, the manner in which the last two Red Deer Rebels games played out has raised a few red flags.
The Rebels stumbled out of the gate Friday night versus the visiting Spokane Chiefs and found themselves down 3-0 after one period. While they ruled the last half of the contest and dominated the third period, the sorry start — and the stellar performance of Chiefs netminder Tyson Verhelst — resulted in a 3-1 Western Hockey League loss.
On Sunday at the Canalta Centre, the Medicine Hat Tigers’ new digs, the Rebels were on fire early and built up a 4-0 lead that gradually dissipated to the point that the hosts forced overtime with a last-second goal. Red Deer prevailed 6-5 via shootout, but the lack of consistency in his club’s play bothered GM/head coach Brent Sutter.
Rebels captain Wyatt Johnson agreed with Sutter’s stance that the team is still searching for consistency, and the 20-year-old insisted Monday that the time has come for the players to display some positive uniformity.
“Obviously, the third period last night was not the third period we wanted,” said Johnson, referring to the Tigers’ three-goal final frame. “We have to improve on that and work on playing 60 minutes.”
Johnson insisted there’s no secret to turning in a full shift.
“Just work hard and play our system,” he said. “We obviously got off track with our game and let them (Tigers) get back in it. There’s no excuse. The game should have been over.
“It’s just about pulling all together for a full 60. I know we can do it. We can talk, but it’s a matter of going out there and doing it … that’s what we ultimately have to achieve.”
As one of the Rebels veterans and the team captain, Johnson is willing to put extra heat on himself to get the club on the right track as soon as tonight versus the visiting Seattle Thunderbirds.
“Being one of the older guys and a player looked up to in the (dressing) room, I feel a lot of responsibility for our play,” he said. “It’s not acceptable and we’re going to correct that and be a 60-minute team from now on.”
Johnson is also shouldering extra accountability since replacing Conner Bleackley as captain in mid-October.
“There’s some added responsibility, whenever things are going bad or going good you’re looked at a little more,” he said.
“But with our team being the way it is … we have probably six to eight guys who could be captain.
“There’s a lot of really good leaders in the room, so that makes my job easier that way. We have a really good group here.”
• Thunderbirds star forward Mathew Barzal was named Monday as the WHL player of the week for the period ending Sunday.
The New York Islanders first-round pick in this year’s NHL entry draft recorded 10 points (1g,9a) in three games, including five assists — and a plus-4 rating — in a 7-2 win over the visiting Brandon Wheat Kings.