Hitmen 6 Rebels 2
CALGARY– A forgettable 47 seconds cost the Red Deer Rebels dearly on Sunday in Calgary at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
The Rebels gave up two goals less than a minute apart to the Calgary Hitmen and the home side rode six unanswered goals to a 6-2 victory.
“Lack of a lot of things. Our work ethic stopped, we took bad penalties. Bad decisions made with pucks. Goaltending wasn’t good in the third. It goes on and on. Just a complete meltdown on our part,” Rebels GM/ head coach Brent Sutter said.
With a 2-0 lead heading into the third period and a dominant 40 minutes for Red Deer – the lapse came quickly.
Riley Stotts buried a one-timer on the power play at 5:41 of third after Rebels’ forward Brandon Hagel took a holding penalty in the offensive zone.
Mark Kastelic powered home a rebound to tie the game at two just 47 seconds later.
Sutter called a timeout to help his troops gather themselves, but the brief break didn’t quell the Hitmen momentum in front of the pumped-up crowd of 8,465.
“The reminder was get back to working and get back to the way we were supposed to play,” Sutter said.
Dakota Krebs put Calgary ahead for the first time in the contest with a point shot past Ethan Anders midway through the third.
Jacob Stukel kept up the assault with another goal for the Hitmen at 13:29. Stukel added an empty-net goal and the 20-year-old left winger had four points in the third period.
“Our best players were playing well until the third and then they weren’t very good. They got outplayed by the other team’s best players and everybody else was just as bad.
“The last two nights their goalies have outplayed our goalies,” Sutter said.
The Rebels were rolling with goals in each of the first two periods and outshooting the Hitmen 26-18 after 40 minutes until it all fell apart.
Early in the first on the power play, Hagel picked up a pass from Grayson Pawlenchuk and roofed it stick side on Matthew Armitage.
The goal was just the 13th of the year and only second on the power play for the Buffalo Sabres draft pick.
Midway through the second, Reese Johnson burst down the wing and wired a wrist shot short side past Armitage. Johnson has 22 goals on the year and three in the last four games.
Anders made 34 saves as the Rebels dropped to 24-30-10-3 on the year and the Hitmen improved to 20-35-8-2 as Armitage stopped 38 shots.
Red Deer has failed to return home from Calgary with a victory in all three visits this season.
The lone positive on Sunday for the Rebels was in Cranbrook where the Kootenay Ice lost 4-3 to the Medicine Hat Tigers.
The Kootenay loss means the Rebels magic number to clinch a playoff spot is down to four points. Red Deer is seven points up on Kootenay for third in the Central Division with five games left in the WHL regular season.
Still, with back-to-back losses and 12 goals allowed in two games, Sutter knows the team will need another gear down the stretch.
“We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. We’re a team that had a good run, but now the heat is on down the stretch and we have to see what we’re made of,” Sutter said.
“We gave up 12 goals in two games. That’s unacceptable. Little bit of everything. When you give up that many goals it’s a lack of effort, working and a lot of different things.”