On a night that belonged to Brandon Hagel, the Red Deer Rebels fell just short again.
It was not for lack of trying, as they outshot the Moose Jaw Warriors 48-21 at the Centrium Saturday. Yet, it was the visitors who managed to escape with a 2-1 victory.
Hagel, in his fourth season as a Rebel and in game 243, established a new franchise mark with a second assist late in the third period, to get Red Deer within a goal. His assist on a Brett Davis tally with 41 seconds left in the game was career assist 162, one more than Rebels great Arron Asham.
“It’s something special. To do it with this jersey on is heartwarming for myself,” said Hagel, who earned second-star honours on the night.
“I’ve been here for four years and this organization has treated me with nothing but the best. I can’t thank them enough. I’m super excited I was able to do it here.”
Still, the Rebels were unable to push the equalizer past Warriors netminder Adam Evanoff in the final minute, who turned aside 47 shots in the win. It was the fifth loss in a row for the Rebels and the seventh in the last nine games.
Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter said despite being held scoreless over 91 minutes between the final period and a half Friday and the last 41 seconds Saturday, his club played well enough to win against the Warriors. Over the losing skid, that hasn’t always been the case.
“We had a really good effort here and we played hard. We created a lot and did a lot of good things. When you outshoot your opposition 2-1 or more,” Sutter said.
“I guess (Saturday) it makes it harder to take in the fact in games we didn’t play as hard in before and we lost in the last three weeks. (Saturday) we played hard and don’t get rewarded. Just the way the hockey gods work. Gotta dig yourself out of a hole.”
Red Deer was even with the Warriors through 20 minutes and it wasn’t until Brayden Tracey broke through with 6:57 left the second that the game had its first goal. Tracey was sprung loose on a great stretch pass by Tristin Langan and buried five-hole on Ethan Anders.
Just 3:31 later, Langan buried high blocker on Anders off the rush after a great touch pass from Keenan Taphorn.
The home side had furious pressure in the third but only solved Evanoff with an extra-attacker in the final minute and finished the period with 18 shots.
“We battled. I told the kids after, you’ll never have an issue with me if you work that hard and compete that hard. Pucks will eventually go in the net. We’re having a hard time scoring right now. We’ve scored six goals in the last five games,” Sutter said.
“It makes it difficult to win games when you’re only getting that much offence. Tonight we generated more by playing in tougher areas and winning more battles. We played a really good game, the puck just didn’t go in the net. You don’t get rewarded for that but it’s a step in the right direction.”
Another bright spot in the loss for the Rebels was their struggling penalty kill, which held the Warriors without a goal in three chances.
Heading into a five-game U.S. road trip, Hagel added the effort Saturday was encouraging.
“We definitely took a step. Obviously, we’re in a little slump right now and that was definitely a step out of it,” Hagel said.
“If we just keep continuing on and on, the puck is going to go in the net. It just didn’t go in (Saturday). If we continue the way we’re playing, we’ll be fine.”