\ Brandon Hagel of the Red Deer Rebels attempts to put a puck past Edmonton Oil Kings goaltender Alec Dillon while fending off Oil Kings defenceman Will Warm during WHL preseason action at the Enmax Centrium on Friday night.

Rebels down Oil Kings 5-3 in WHL exhibition play

The Red Deer Rebels were all spit and vinegar for the first two periods of Friday’s Western Hockey League preseason game at the Centrium. As for the third period … not so much.

Rebels 5 Oil Kings 3

The Red Deer Rebels were all spit and vinegar for the first two periods of Friday’s Western Hockey League preseason game at the Centrium.

As for the third period … not so much.

The Rebels controlled the opening 40 minutes, jumping out to a four-goal lead while enjoying a 25-15 advantage in shots en route to a 5-3 win.

The visitors, however, outshot their hosts 14-3 in the final frame while getting unanswered goals from defencemen Anatolii Elizarov and Aaron Irving.

“It’s just a matter of staying with it for 60 (minutes),” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter, who still has eight players away at NHL training camps and dressed 16 skaters Friday.

“We were playing with a short bench and yet I just thought we dropped our guard a bit in the third. We let them dictate the third period, plus we started taking penalties and that’s what we did against Spokane (in a 5-3 exhibition loss in the Tri-City Americans tournament) last weekend too.”

As Sutter pointed out, the third-period lapse was the lone negative in the game viewed by close to 3,000 fans.

“There were some good signs and we got some quality efforts from a lot of guys,” he said.

“I don’t know if we ran out of gas because a lot of guys are playing a lot of minutes just because of (the shortage of) bodies, but it’s exhibition and it will continue to sort itself out.”

The line of Jeff de Wit and wingers Austin Pratt and Grayson Pawlenchuk was a consistent force through the first two periods, accounting for three goals and seven points.

“We had a few good practices together this week and we had a good weekend in Tri-City playing together,” said de Wit, who notched a short-handed penalty shot goal in the second period and assisted on a pair of goals from Pratt.

“We had a rough game against Spokane last weekend but today was awesome. We were gelling and getting in on the forecheck and that’s what you need, along with a strong work ethic.”

Sutter had words of praise for the trio and was also impressed with newcomer Brandon Hagel. The 17-year-old forward signed with the Rebels Thursday after opening the season with the Whitecourt Wolverines of the Alberta Junior League.

“For this being his first game of major junior hockey, he was real good here tonight,” said the Rebels bench boss. “There are little things in his game that we have to help him with, but you can he has a tremendous amount of skill and he plays the game the right way.

“For the most part, our effort was there tonight. We just have to stay with it and continue to get better.”

Reese Johnson and Josh Mahura, on a power-play blast from the point, also tallied for the Rebels, who led 3-0 after 20 minutes. Tyler Robertson notched Edmonton’s first goal after Red Deer had built a 4-0 lead.

Rylan Toth turned aside 26 shots in the Rebels net. Oil Kings starter Alec Dillon was beaten on four of 17 shots and Patrick Dea, who came on midway through the contest, blocked 10 of 11.

The Rebels play their final preseason contest tonight, taking on the Medicine Hat Tigers at Stettler. Game time is 7 p.m.

The Rebels will focus on turning in a solid 60-minute effort.

“I think our team just lost focus tonight,” said de Wit. “We came in after two periods and we were a little high on ourselves, but that’s something we can work on.”

gmeachem@bprda.wpengine.com

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