Ice 4 Rebels 1
Kootenay Ice head coach Mark Holick felt like his team had literally blown the doors off of the Centrium.
The offensively-challenged Western Hockey League club directed just 24 shots at Red Deer Rebels goaltenders Darcy Kuemper and Kraymer Barnstable on Friday, but secured a 4-1 victory before an announced gathering of 4,673, many of whom were on their way home by the time the final buzzer sounded.
The visitors cashed in on the majority of their scoring opportunities. Two of their goals were of the fortunate variety, including Dustin Sylvester’s second-period marker which gave the Ice a 3-0 lead.
“We got a bounce on the Sylvester goal, but those bounces have gone against us in previous games,” said Holick. “I thought our effort was there and it’s been good the last half dozen or so games. Our problem has been finding the back of the net. Four goals for us is like scoring 15, that’s a blowout for us. But we’ll take it and move forward. Tomorrow is another day and Wally (Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin) will have his team ready for tomorrow.”
The Rebels, who take on the Ice in a rematch tonight in Cranbrook, fired 35 shots at Kootenay netminder Todd Mathews, but 16 of those came in the third period and only a handful were of the difficult variety.
“It’s a tough loss, a tough hockey game to lose,” said Wallin. “This was a really big game for us, the last game at home going into a big road trip. It’s a tough couple of points to lose, no question about it.”
Wallin got very little from his top two lines, with the exception of rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who set up Andrej Kudrna for Red Deer’s lone goal late in the game. And Kuemper, who started and was replaced by Barnstable at 8:19 of the second period after allowing three goals on 15 shots, struggled.
“We have some guys that we need more from. Your key guys should be your best players,” said the Rebels coach. “You’re only as good as your lead horses and our lead horses weren’t very good tonight. I thought they let us down.
“We need guys to compete harder and we need more saves. Our goaltender (Kuemper) let in a couple of soft goals. You need those key saves, you need them at key times. But at the same time, we had guys coming back into our zone. We spent two-thirds of our time in practice working on defensive play and we come back and we’re doing loops in our own end and leaving guys open in the slot. It’s frustrating. It’s really disappointing.”
The Ice, who got a first-period goal from Jesse Ismond, an early second-period marker from Kevin King and a third-period tally from Petr Senkerik on a power-play deflection, received a stand-up performance from Mathews. The Ice netminder, who’s been handed Kootenay’s starting job with Nathan Lieuwen out with a concussion, held his ground when the Rebels did apply pressure, and made a sparkling pad save on John Persson in the final frame.
“Nathan went down with an injury and Todd has been awesome for us ever since,” said Holick. “He’s been stopping pucks. His save percentage is 90 (per cent) and his goals against has really sharpened up. He had a couple of tough starts early in the year but he’s been money for us. He’s a difference-maker. That’s what we’ve asked of him and he’s been doing it.”
The Rebels are on the road for their next five games, starting tonight in Cranbrook and continuing next week with contests at Kamloops, Kelowna, Vancouver and Chilliwack.
“It’s as good a time as any to be going on the road,” said Wallin. “We get to bounce right back tomorrow. We have a game against these guys tomorrow night and an opportunity to redeem ourselves. But we’ll need a better effort than we had tonight.”