For all their efforts, the Red Deer Rebels luck just never changed in 2017 portion of the WHL schedule.
Saturday they lost another overtime game, this one 4-3 in Medicine Hat to the Tigers.
Mark Rassell scored his second goal of the game and 31st of the year for the Tigers with 21 seconds left in the contest to clinch the victory. The loss was the Rebels eighth straight in extra time and they have just one win in their last 10 games overall. Four of their last six games have been decided in either overtime or the shootout.
“Tough way to lose again. Battle back in the third, you have to get more than one point out of this. We make a mistake in overtime that you can’t make and it’s in our net,” Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter said.
“When you’re playing 3-on-3 hockey, it’s a lot of hockey sense involved. There’s not a lot you can do, we had some scoring chances we didn’t capitalize on. We lose our coverage and don’t manage the puck the right way. A lot of it is being strong on pucks and understanding.”
Red Deer hung tough with the top team in the Central Division, scoring twice in the third period to tie the game at three. Arshdeep Bains had his first career WHL goal 48 seconds into the frame and a late tally from Mason McCarty evened the score, but they just couldn’t find a way to secure two points.
“That’s a positive, at times tonight we did some really good things and at times we weren’t as good as we needed to be. Some of it you can chalk to inexperience and some of it was just us not playing good hockey,” Sutter said.
River Fahey, 16, also got his first WHL goal in the opening frame, on the backhand after a nice pass sprung him loose by captain Grayson Pawlenchuk.
While the loss signals the growing pains are likely to continue for the Rebels long into the New Year, the young forwards finding ways to contribute is a positive sign for a struggling club.
“Those two 16-year-olds were big for us tonight,” Sutter said.
Bains, 16, a Surrey, B.C. native had been on fire in the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League this season with 56 points in 22 games for the Valley West Hawks before joining the Rebels full time on Dec. 15. He also added an assist in the loss and now has three points in his first five WHL games.
Tigers forward Gary Haden opened the scoring shorthanded in the first, but the Rebels responded at 13:08 when Fahey notched his goal.
Rassell added his 30th goal of the year for the Tigers late in the first and Tyler Preziuso potted another late in the second.
Ethan Anders was pulled from the Rebels net after two periods. Anders made some big saves in the first period including early in the game on a Rassell breakaway and was named third star. He turned aside 23 shots before giving way to Riley Lamb. Lamb was outstanding in relief with 15 saves between the third period and overtime.
Sutter said the decision to pull Anders was two-fold.
“I didn’t like the last two goals on Andy and I thought our team needed a shakeup. We weren’t pleased with how we played in the second,” Sutter said.
McCarty tied the game late in the third period on a shot that was not originally signaled as a goal. After they reviewed the play, it was quickly called a goal. The goal was his 18th of the season and he leads the Rebels in that category.
Grayson Pawlenchuk had two assists in the game and now has 10 points in his last six games. He also played his 247th game as a Rebel, one game behind Jim Vandermeer for 25th on the club’s all-time games played list.
The Rebels are 10-19-6-2 on the year and will be back on the ice on Jan. 3 when they host the Moose Jaw Warriors.