Broncos 3 Rebels 2 (SO)
It was akin to a jet pilot losing control of his aircraft.
The Red Deer Rebels were enjoying a smooth flight with a 2-0 lead through 40 minutes of Friday’s Western Hockey League contest at the Centrium, then experienced some serious turbulence and gave up two unanswered third-period goals. The home squad nearly crash-landed while being outshot 15-3 in the final frame, but settled for a single point in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Swift Current Broncos before a recorded crowd of 4,833.
With Rebels forward Willie Coetzee serving a goaltender interference penalty, Broncos sniper Cody Eakin, from the right faceoff circle, ripped a slapshot over the shoulder of netminder Darcy Kuemper at 2:18 of the third period. Broncos captain and Red Deer product Derek Claffey then pulled the visitors even just over a minute later with a similar shot from the left circle.
The remainder of the fast-paced third stanza was scoreless, although rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins nearly restored Red Deer’s lead when he rang a shot off the cross-bar, and neither team connected in the overtime stanza.
“We quit moving our feet for a six-to-seven-minute span in the second period and it was more of the same in the third period,” said Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin.
“I didn’t see the penalty (assessed to Coetzee), I don’t know if there was one or not. But we made a mistake on our penalty kill when we didn’t get out into a shooting lane and we ended up giving up two quick goals.
“It was a similar situation to the other night against Vancouver (in a 6-2 loss Wednesday) when they got two quick ones on us and all of a sudden we were back on our heels.”
Kraymer Barnstable, as was the case in last Saturday’s 2-1 win over the visiting Edmonton Oil Kings, replaced Kuemper in the Rebels’ net for the shootout, and after failed Broncos attempts by Eakin (cross-bar) and Stepan Novotny (save), gave up goals to Brad Hoban and Justin Dowling.
Rebels lead-off shooter Landon Ferraro slipped a puck through Mark Friesen’s legs, but the Broncos netminder stopped Coetzee and John Persson.
“It’s getting down to the time here where we need to start focusing on solidifying a playoff spot,” said Claffey. “We’ve talked about that, how we’ve been digging a hole for ourselves while the other teams are winning. The bottom line is we can’t leave it to anyone else.
“We were a little bit slow coming out of the gate tonight, but we found our legs, started making some plays and things started working for us. Now we’re going to have to carry that into Edmonton (for tonight’s meeting with the Oil Kings).”
Ferraro connected from close range to give the Rebels a 1-0 lead 3:33 into the contest, and Andrej Kudrna padded Red Deer’s margin at 12:25 of the second period, converting Coetzee’s pass from behind the Broncos net.
But the visitors took over in the third stanza and with the eventual victory pulled to within two points of the sixth-place Rebels in the Eastern Conference.
“We just totally got away from our game plan in the third period,” said Wallin, whose club is in Cranbrook tonight to face the red-hot Kootenay Ice. “We harped on moving our feet and continuing to be the aggressor and getting after them.
“We had success with that earlier in the game and then we went out and stood around and watched in the third period and allowed them to bring the play to us. We’re going to have to correct that tomorrow and make sure we’re moving our feet and getting after them (Ice) on the forecheck down in Kootenay.”