Rebels crash against Ice

The Dr. Jykell and Mr. Hyde act continued Friday for the Red Deer Rebels (17-16-4-2) in a disappointing 4-1 loss to the Kootenay Ice (8-23-7-1).

After a poor showing Wednesday in Edmonton, the Rebels returned home for the final game of 2016 and couldn’t muster any offence against the last place team in the WHL.

“I don’t think we played very well tonight to be quite honest. I thought we had odd opportunities but we didn’t bear down.

“When you get two-on-ones, four-on-ones– mentally we weren’t in sync at all,” Rebels GM and head coach Brent Sutter said Friday.

“It’s kind of a reflection of the way we played the last two periods in Edmonton and just carried over to tonight. It’s been this way since November. We’re a below .500 hockey team since November on. Win one, lose one, win one, lose two. Win two, lose three, it’s been all over the map.”

Since Nov. 1, the Rebels are 9-11-3-1 and have only won two games in a row once. Sutter believes the next week will be a crucial period for the Rebels, where they will be forced to look inside the dressing room and find out what kind of team they want to be.

“This isn’t something that has all of a sudden hit us. It’s been ongoing. We need urgency in this dressing room,” Sutter said.

“Until you hate to lose, you never learn how to win. We have lot of guys in the room that take losing too easy and too lightly. It’s just a ho-hum and tomorrow is just another day. Well, if you don’t get upset about losing hockey games at this level than you’re in trouble.

“I think we take losing too lightly, we don’t stay with our game and if you play the right way, it’s a hard way to play. We don’t stay with it and we usually end up on the wrong side of it. We ended up on the wrong side of it too much.”

Red Deer gave up a goal a power play goal just two minutes into the game and playing from behind has been as about friendly as the flu for the Rebels this season. When they allow the first goal through 39 games after Friday’s loss, Red Deer is 2-13-2-2.

The home side did show a bit of push back in the second, especially early in the period.

Playing four-on-four to start the frame, newly acquired Austin Glover and Brandon Hagel connected on a nice passing play that Hagel finished, all well sliding and wearing an Ice defender like a dirty gym shirt. The goal was Hagel’s 18th of the season. It was one of just a handful of quality scoring chances for Red Deer in the game.

Hagel was one of the best Rebel’s forwards on Friday night, but his line (Glover and Evan Polei) and got in some trouble with their head coach late in the third period when they trailed 2-1.

“Third period tonight our best players were terrible,” Sutter said bluntly. “They were minus two, that top line and you throw pucks in the middle of the ice have turnovers and have quality scoring chances against us. We don’t pick guys up coming back into our zone and you’re going to get scored against.

“That’s why they sat for the last 11 minutes because they didn’t pull their weight in the third like we needed to, it’s not all about offence, it’s about learning to play the game the right way on both sides.”

Friday, the Rebels only managed one goal against an Ice team that has allowed 4.4 goals a game through 38 contests this year. Ice veteran netminder seems to always turn up his game against the Rebels, as Friday he made 34 plus saves for the third time against Red Deer this year. He was named the first star for his 41-save performance.

The game at the Centrium was also a special night for Rebels broadcaster Cam Moon, who called his 1500th contest for the Rebels. The team rolled out tributes all night including 400 limited edition bobbleheads, a special ceremony before puck drop and video messages from former players during the second intermission.

Red Deer also acquired 18-year-old defenceman Brandon Schuldhaus from the Seattle Thunderbirds on Friday in exchange for Austin Strand,19, and a 6th round pick in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft.

He had two goals and five assists with Seattle before the trade.

The Rebels are back on the ice Jan. 7 in Lethbridge.

byron.hackett@bprda.wpengine.com

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