The sooner the Red Deer Rebels learn they can’t score from the penalty box, the better.
With the Rebels two men short in the second period, former Red Deer defenceman Matt Pufahl beat Rebels netminder Patrik Bartosak with a shot from just inside the point and the goal stood up for the Everett Silvertips in a 2-1 WHL win before 4,284 fans at the Centrium.
“It was a hard-fought game, which is typical of the way Everett plays,” said Rebels general manager/head coach Brent Sutter. “In the second period we didn’t play well enough to really gain momentum. We took some bad penalties.”
Rebels forward Dominik Volek was already serving a slashing penalty when Bartosak was nailed for cross checking, giving the visitors a lengthy two-man advantage which ultimately resulted in the winning goal.
“That’s another learning curve for us and a learning curve for our 20-year-old goaltender, too,” said Sutter. “A sin in hockey is a goalie who takes a penalty and puts your team down two men. He just can’t do that. He’s the last guy on the ice and he has to be your best penalty killer, not someone who shoots himself in the foot.
“It’s a mistake by Patty in a 1-1 game. They capitalized on it and full marks to them for doing that.”
Pufahl’s goal was his second of the game, his first — and second of the season — coming off a pass from Manraj Hayer and pulling the ‘Tips into a 1-1 tie at 7:37 of the first period. Pufahl took the feed while skating into the high slot and beat Bartosak with a perfectly-placed wrist shot.
Matt Bellerive, with Everett defenceman Ben Betker serving a checking-from-behind infraction, gave the Rebels an early lead with his fourth goal of the season, firing a rebound past goaltender Austin Lotz just 3:06 into the contest while stationed alone in front of the net.
Following an evenly-played opening frame, the Silvertips took charge in the second period as the Rebels took all three minor penalties called by referees Kevin Webinger and Derek Zalaski.
The Rebels were on their heels for much of the period and parts of the third stanza, yet still created some excellent scoring chances.
“In the third we got some opportunities we didn’t capitalize on, but you have to play 60 minutes,” said Sutter. “Again, it was a learning lesson for us.”
Lotz faced only 21 shots, but came up big on several occasions, robbing Brooks Maxwell from close range, getting a pad on a deke by Rhyse Dieno and stopping Haydn Fleury on a breakaway. He also had luck on his side as Brady Gaudet and Conner Bleackley each rang a shot off the crossbar.
“We had enough chances to win the game, but just couldn’t find the back of the net,” said Dieno, who was assessed a 10-minute misconduct following a first-period scrap with Pufahl.
“I didn’t have my tie-down done up and that’s a bad call on my part,” said Dieno. “Penalties killed us tonight.”
The Rebels 20-year-old forward noted that the Silvertips defencemen played a big role in keeping the Red Deer shots to a minimum.
“They have some big guys, some big D-men who are tough to get around,” said Dieno. “They make it tough. They grind you down . . . hit after hit when you have the puck. But you have to find a way to battle through that.”
Silvertips assistant coach Marc LeRose credited Lotz and the club’s special teams for pulling out the win.
“It was a good effort on our part. It was a tight game and fortunately our power play stepped up in the second period and scored a timely five-on-three goal,” said LeRose.
“Our special teams have been good for us so far. Unfortunately, we gave up one power-play goal, but that a good unit Red Deer has . . . tough to stop.”
As for Lotz . . .
“He made some big saves, at least three great stops,” said LeRose. “We tried to give him support and block some shots. Sometimes there are breakdowns and he was there for us when they happened.”
While the Silvertips improved to 4-1-1-0, the Rebels fell to 5-3-0-0 with Friday and Saturday home dates with Prince Albert and Spokane looming.
“We know what we have to do to be better,” said Dieno. “We have a (seven-game) homestand here and we have start winning some games.”
• Already minus the services of injured forwards Lukas Sutter and Grayson Pawlenchuk, the Rebels lost Kolton Dixon in the first period when the defenceman slammed into the end boards. Dixon didn’t return and is out indefinitely with an upper-body injury . . . The Red Deer scratches, besides Sutter and Pawlenchuk, were forward Cole Chorney and defenceman Jake MacLachlan.