Blades edge the Rebels

A positive bounce here or there and the result might have been reversed.

Red Deer Rebel Colton Mayor fights Saskatoon Blade Lukas Sutter for a loose puck Friday. The Blades won 2-1.

Red Deer Rebel Colton Mayor fights Saskatoon Blade Lukas Sutter for a loose puck Friday. The Blades won 2-1.

Blades 2 Rebels 1

A positive bounce here or there and the result might have been reversed.

The Rebels outshot the Saskatoon Blades 41-23 before an audience of 4,482 Friday at the Centrium, but dropped a 2-1 Western Hockey League decision to the visitors.

The fact remains that the Rebels couldn’t get a handle on a bouncing puck in front of Blades netminder Steven Sanford during several instances, particularly in a frantic third period.

Therefore, it must have been a case of bad puck luck. Or was it?

Not according to Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin, who felt his club simply wasn’t up to par after posting a 4-0 record on their recent road trip.

“I didn’t think we competed hard enough,” he said. “Saskatoon came in and played hard and I didn’t think we competed hard enough on a consistent basis.

“We committed way too many turnovers and were too soft on the puck. Both goals were gave up were examples of that – they were off soft turnovers. I wasn’t pleased with the way we played, it was nowhere the level we played at on our road trip and nowhere near the level I expected.”

The Rebels get right back at it tonight when they host the Prince Albert Raiders.

“I was disappointed with our effort tonight and I want to see a proper response tomorrow,” said Wallin.

The Blades struck first at 12:08 of the opening period when defenceman Dalton Thower notched his second of the season with a 40-foot shot through a crowd.

Red Deer responded just 1:45 into the second period as John Persson cashed a rebound of a point shot by Matt Pufahl.

However, the visitors regained the lead seven minutes later following a turnover at the Red Deer blueline. Thrower tossed the puck over to Marek Viendensky, who beat goalie Darcy Kuemper with a quick relay.

The goal stood up as the winner.

The Rebels dominated the middle frame with a 17-5 advantage in shots, but netminder Steven Stanford held the fort for the Blades, then turned aside all 14 shots he faced in the final period.

While the Rebels enjoyed more than their share of scoring chances, a good percentage of their shots were from the perimeter or just inside that range.

The Blades defensive corps stood the Rebels attackers up at the blueline and many of the Red Deer dump-ins were gathered up and cleared by Stanford.

“By having too many casual dump-ins we weren’t able to establish our forecheck,” said Wallin. “We just didn’t get through the neutral zone well enough. We had some good shifts here and there and we should have been able to build some momentum off of those shifts.”

While Stanford was stellar, Kuemper was equally as sharp, making a series of great saves in the third period following Red Deer breakdowns.

In the end, the Blades ground out a gritty road win and moved into a tie with the Rebels for first place in the Eastern Conference.

“Some games you don’t get the bounces and tonight I guess we didn’t play well enough to get those bounces,” said Brett Ferguson, arguably the Rebels best forward Friday.

“The harder you work the more things are going to go your way and we didn’t do that tonight.”

Still, the Rebels were oh-so-close to knocking off the team that many consider to be the best in the Eastern Conference.

“I’d like to think that we’re the best team in the Eastern Conference and it’s not good enough to just keep it close,” said Ferguson. “We want to beat them. I feel it’s going to be a battle between the two of us for first place all season.”

gmeachem@bprda.wpengine.com