Red Deer Rebels forward Dallon Melin pokes home his first goal of the WHL season in the Rebels home opener at the Centrium on Saturday night. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

Rebels fall short in home opener against Edmonton Oil Kings

Edmonton picked up a 4-2 victory

Oil Kings 4 Rebels 2

It was a tough start for the Red Deer Rebels in their WHL home opener.

In what’s expected to be a long season full of plenty of lessons for a young Rebels group, the Edmonton Oil Kings handed out a swift one in the first of nine meetings between the two clubs this season.

With 4,522 fans riled up at the Centrium, it was the visitors who looked like the real deal in the opener. Edmonton was the eighth-ranked team in the CHL heading into the season and coming off an undefeated 5-0 preseason it showed in a dominant 4-2 win over the Rebels.

“It’s the first game, there’s some things we have to work on but it’s a good test for our kids to see where they gotta be at. Not just our kids, our veterans too,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter, whose lineup featured six players in their first WHL game.

“We need to get 60 minutes from those guys every night. It’s a learning thing for us, it was an emotional game for a lot of players. Home ice, a lot of different things involved and we were playing a very good team.”

Even after Dallon Melin got the Rebels on the board just past the midway point of the opening frame, the Oil Kings looked poised to pounce. The Czar, Alta. product jumped on a loose puck and banged it home for his first of the season. On the goal, Red Deer product Keaton Sorensen recording his first career WHL point.

From there, the Oil Kings took over.

After Cam Hausinger was sent off for a cross-checking minor, the visitors went to work.

Edmonton captain Scott Atkinson buried a one-timer on the power play and Josh Williams tucked home the go-ahead goal with just 14 seconds left in the first period.

“We had a pretty good start, feeding off the crowd. They scored on the power play and took the momentum away and they managed to get another one. I thought we were trailing a lot in the second,” said Rebels alternate captain Brett Davis.

Atkinson then cashed in his second of the night on a nifty feed from Williams 1:46 into the second. Along with winger Vlad Alistrov, who had two assists, that line combined for six points.

The middle frame was most definitely a trouble spot for the Rebels, at one point late in the period they were being outshot 10-3 by the Oil Kings. Sutter said it was just a few minor mistakes that led to the ice tilting in the Oil Kings direction.

“If you don’t get engaged and you don’t finish checks and you start chasing the puck around. Positional play you are standing round in your own zone. Then you lose coverage. Just things that guys have to be sharper at,” he said.

Red Deer started to claw back in the third, and were given some life from the energy line of Jaxsen Wiebe, Jace Isley and Chase Leslie.

“That line has to give us emotion and intensity. Both (Wiebe) and Isley were great. (Leslie) was really great in the third. Grubbe, Melin and Sorensen were good in the third. I thought they had a pretty solid game,” Sutter said.

That energy translated into some momentum for the home side late in the frame. Veteran Brett Davis picked up a loose puck in the slot and wired a wrister low blocker on Dylan Myskiw to get the Rebels within a goal.

With just 2:06 left in the contest, the Oil Kings killed any hope of a comeback. David Kope poked home a loose puck after Ethan Anders made two good saves and Ethan Sakowich stopped one with his shin pad.

Myskiw finished the night with 27 saves and earned the victory for the Oil Kings. Anders turned aisde 28 in the loss.

Three Stars: Vlad Alistrov (3), Brett Davis (2), Scott Atkinson (1).

The Rebels and Oil Kings are back at it Sunday at Rogers Place with puck drop set for 4 p.m.

Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

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