The Red Deer Rebels only played with the desperation of a team trying to hunt down a playoff spot for one period Tuesday.
That cost the home side dearly at the Centrium, as the WHL Central Division leading Edmonton Oil Kings powered past the Rebels 3-2.
With the loss, Red Deer’s playoff hopes hang in the balance of the final three games. That includes Wednesday in Medicine Hat against the Tigers. Red Deer has lost all five games against them this season.
Beyond the opening period against the Oil Kings, when the Rebels had eight shots on net and Dawson Barteaux scored on a one-timer five-on-three, there wasn’t a lot to like according to Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter.
“I didn’t like our last two periods at all. I thought we were average at best. We got outworked, out-competed,” Sutter said.
“There wasn’t a forward that I liked. Right from our top players right down. Just too soft. They won all the battles. They got the pucks first. Our forecheck was non-existent. We put pucks in and no one finished checks. They turned around and the puck was right out of the zone. They’re a good hockey team but you have to play harder than that, it’s unacceptable. I’m not going to accept that.”
Trey Fix Wolanksy opened the scoring for the Oil Kings with a laser past Ethan Anders with eight minutes to play in the first. Barteaux’s tally came 4:15 later and ended a decent opening frame for the home side.
Anders was brilliant in the second period, turning aside all 17 Oil Kings shots he faced to keep the game tied at one. He stopped 34 total in the game and was main reason the game was tied after 40 minutes. Red Deer had just three shots in the second.
“Andy was by far our best player, wasn’t even close,” Sutter added.
Early in the third with the game still tied at one, Vladimir Alistrov scooped up a loose puck in the crease and slipped it past Anders to break the deadlock.
Edmonton took firm control when Vince Loschiavo blasted a one-timer in on the power play after a great cross-ice pass from Quinn Benjafield.
Late in the game, down a pair of goals, the Rebels finally converted on their second consecutive power play. Just as an Andrew Fyten interference penalty expired, Will Warm was whistled for a cross-check.
On the ensuing advantage, a Barteaux point shot was tipped by Jeff de Wit to get the Rebels within a goal.
In the final minute, the Rebels had a pair of chances to tie the game with the goalie out.
Reese Johnson hit the post and Myskiw made a huge blocker save with only 30 seconds left.
Still, the head coach wondered why it took so long for his team to push back.
“For a team that’s fighting to get into the playoffs, you can’t play that way,” Sutter surmised.
“Why do we have urgency in the last minute of the game? Why don’t we show that earlier? That’s why it bothers me.”
With the loss, the Rebels magic number to clinch a playoff spot is still three points. Red Deer plays at Medicine Hat Wednesday night before they host the Lethbridge Hurricanes on March 15. The Rebels finish the regular season on March 17 in Cranbrook against the Kootenay Ice.
The three stars were Scott Atkinson (1), Dawson Barteaux (2) and Matthew Robertson (3).