It was almost as if the Western Hockey League playoffs arrived early.
At least that’s how it felt when the Red Deer Rebels took on their Central Division rival Calgary Hitmen Friday night at the Peavey Mart Centrium.
The Hitmen tied the game with less than one second left and again in overtime to beat the Rebels 4-3.
A penalty with a minute remaining in the game proved costly for Red Deer who were down a man in the dying seconds. The Rebels gave the Hitmen six powerplays in total, which is an issue head coach Steve Konowalchuk hopes to fix before playoffs.
“A frustrating loss,” he said. “When you take penalties and you’re putting your team shorthanded it catches up to you. That’s really the thing to take away from it were the penalties. We’ve got to be better.”
In the first period, both squads played with plenty of pace and physicality trading scoring opportunities on either end.
The Hitmen got on the board six minutes into the game but Rebels sniper Kai Uchacz got the equalizer a minute later on the powerplay.
That was followed by Craig Armstrong’s ninth goal of the year to take the lead less than 30 seconds after.
Hitmen forward Sean Tschigerl notched his second of the evening to tie the game 2-2 midway through the opening period.
Rebels Dwayne Jean Jr. banged in the loose puck in front of the net to take a 3-2 lead with just over three minutes remaining in the frame.
After a scoreless second period, the Hitmen pushed in the final few minutes of the third period to tie it.
After the Rebels took a costly penalty with a minute left the Hitmen went on the powerplay and in the dying seconds left Calgary tied it 3-3. After the officials reviewed it, it was ruled a good goal.
In overtime both teams traded scoring opportunities including a fantastic save by Brayden Peters on Uchacz was left alone in front.
Calgary’s leading goal scorer Riley Fiddler-Schultz fired in a wrist shot to take home the victory and keep their playoff hopes alive.
“It was a fun game and they played hard. Obviously, they would be they’re playing for their lives. Our guys played pretty hard too. It’s just with those kinds of penalties coming down the stretch in playoffs you won’t win many games,” Konowalchuk added.
“Good hockey players don’t parade to the box. Good hockey players don’t do that all the time. I don’t know if they’re undisciplined but you can’t do that consistently. If you’re on top of your game and you’re playing smart you don’t take those kinds of penalties.”
The Rebels and Hitmen will meet again on Saturday at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary at 2 p.m.