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Penalties sink Rebels in 7-4 loss to Blazers

Blazers went four-for-five on the powerplay
Red Deer Rebels forward Jhett Larson cuts toward the Kamloops Blazers net Friday night during WHL action at the Peavey Mart Centrium. (Photo by Ian Gustafson/ Advocate staff)

The Red Deer Rebels provided plenty of offence but penalties ultimately sunk the Rebels.

The Kamloops Blazers went four-for-five on the man advantage and beat Red Deer 7-4 Friday night.

Head coach Steve Konowalchuk said overall his team wasn’t very sharp.

“Maybe one or two I could count with a sharp game. Obviously not to the standards that we expect as a staff and I’m sure the players aren’t too happy with that performance,” he said.

“It was a tie hockey game going into the third and we’re usually a smart hockey team but not in that third period. It was a frustrating game.”

The Blazers hold the crown for the leagues best powerplay converting on 31 per cent of their opportunities and they proved that against Red Deer.

Meanwhile, the Rebels remain the league’s third-most penalized team in the WHL. Despite holding the fourth-best penalty kill at 81.9 per cent, the time spent in the box Friday night hurt the Rebels.

“They earn a powerplay by making a great play. It’s a breakaway or a two-on-one and you have to save it well that’s different. Or maybe being really aggressive and it’s a borderline hit. Those kinds you might have to kill but we’ve got to be better,” he said.

The Blazers scored three times in the opening period and for the most part, controlled the play outshooting Red Deer 21-4.

The first came seven minutes in off the stick of Connor Levis and less than a minute later Olen Zellweger made it 2-0 for the visiting Blazers.

As the period came to a close Kamloops added one more on the powerplay with 20 seconds left notched by Caedan Bankier.

Red Deer got on the board approximately six minutes into the middle frame. While playing four-on-four, defenceman Jace Weir fed an open Ben King who fired it in through the five-hole.

Kamloops answered two minutes later on the powerplay yet again potted by Matthew Seminoff.

However, the Rebels didn’t let that keep them down.

With eight minutes left in the second, forward Craig Armstrong made a drive to the net but a big rebound in the slot found Carson Birnie’s stick who fired in his seventh of the season.

At the 14-minute mark, Rebels Kai Uchacz sniped his 41st goal off a cross-ice pass from King.

With less than a minute left in the period, Jhett Larson found the equalizer after he circled around the net. Larson was left alone out front and made no mistake picking the top corner.

In the final period, the Blazers continued their special team’s dominance scoring two powerplay goals within the first five minutes. The first came from former Rebel Kyle Masters and the second was notched by Stettler native Daylan Kuefler to make it 6-4.

At the midway point, the Blazers put the game out of reach extending their lead 7-4.

Despite the loss, Konowalchuk said their character showed in the second period but overall they just didn’t have it Friday night.

“In some ways, it makes it frustrating when it’s right there, we were right back into it but we got them right back on the powerplay and we didn’t get the kill,” he said.

“We’ve got good penalty killers so we’ve got to get the job done killing penalties too. It’s a battle, you take penalties you got to kill it… It’s just a game where everybody has to look in the mirror and get ready for tomorrow.”

The Rebels head to Medicine Hat Saturday night at 7 p.m. to take on the Tigers and will rematch against their Central Division rivals once again on Family Day at 2 p.m. in Red Deer.

Red Deer Rebels forward Kai Uchacz makes his way through the offensive zone against the Kamloops Blazers Friday night at the Peavey Mart Centrium. (Photo by Ian Gustafson/ Advocate staff)
Tempers boiled over towards the end of the first period in a matchup between the Red Deer Rebels and the Kamloops Blazers Friday night at the Peavey Mart Centrium. (Photo by Ian Gustafson/ Advocate staff)

Ian Gustafson

About the Author: Ian Gustafson

Ian began his journalism career as a reporter in Prince Albert, Sask. for the last three years, and was born and raised in Saskatchewan.
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