Wheat Kings 5 Rebels 4 (OT)
The Red Deer Rebels fell just short of extending their Western Hockey League winning streak into double figures on Saturday.
The Rebels’ run of success was snapped at nine games with a 5-4 overtime loss to the host Brandon Wheat Kings. As Red Deer GM/head coach Brent Sutter noted, the setback witnessed by 3,663 fans at the Keystone Centre wasn’t due to a shortage of scoring opportunities.
“We had so many friggin’ chances. But when you score four goals in a game you should win,” Sutter said on Sunday evening, roughly 10 hours after the team arrived back in Red Deer. “It just wasn’t meant to be.”
The Rebels pelted Brandon netminder Corbin Boes with 24 first-period shots en route to a 2-0 lead on goals from Matt Bellerive and Rhyse Dieno.
But the visitors then coughed up three unanswered goals in the first 13 minutes of the second period before getting an equalizer from Mathew Dumba at 19:06.
Red Deer refocused during the intermission and outshot the Wheat Kings 8-7 in the third period. Both teams scored once, with Brandon moving ahead 4-3 on Alessio Bertaggia’s 16th of the season at 4:57 and Wyatt Johnson potting a short-handed goal for the Rebels at 11:14.
Rebels forward Marc McCoy rang a shot off the post late in regulation time and in the extra frame Johnson deflected a volley that just trickled past the Brandon cage.
Then, just seconds after Dumba struck iron with a shot, Ryley Miller ended the contest 3:36 into overtime.
“We never played great in the second period, we kind of played on our heels” said Sutter. “But we were good in the first and third periods as well as the overtime.”
Richard Nejezchleb, Jayce Hawryluk and Jason Swyripa scored Brandon’s second-period goals. Boes made 44 saves for the Wheat Kings, who fired 37 shots at Rebels netminder Patrik Bartosak.
The three-star selections — surprisingly — were all Wheat Kings in Bertaggia, Hawryluk and Miller.
While the Rebels were unable to continue their magical run, they did return home with five of the six points available on their three-game road trip that earlier included wins at Regina and Moose Jaw.
“That’s pretty darn good. The key thing is we got 19 of 20 points in our last 10 games,” said Sutter. “That’s the way we have to look at it. We just have to stay with it and recognize the good things we did, even in last night’s game, because we did a lot of good things.”
The Rebels are now minus the services of Bartosak, who will join the Czech Republic national team this week and is a good bet to make the squad and play in the world junior championship starting on Boxing Day in Ufa, Russia.
In addition, Dumba will attend the Team Canada world junior selection camp starting on Tuesday at Calgary’s Canada Olympic Park and will miss at least one game — Wednesday’s contest versus the visiting Calgary Hitmen.
Meanwhile, forward Cory Millette needed 60 stitches to close a laceration just above the knee that he suffered on Wednesday at Regina and will be out of the Rebels lineup until after the Christmas break. Forward Filip Vasko incurred a mild knee sprain on Friday at Moose Jaw and missed Sunday’s game at Brandon, as did defenceman Brandon Underwood (sore wrist).
Sutter is hoping that Vasko and Underwood will be available for Wednesday’s clash with the Hitmen.
The Rebels host the Victoria Royals and Kelowna Rockets on Friday and Saturday.