The Medicine Hat Tigers scored in all three periods to sink the Red Deer Rebels on Saturday night at the Centrium.
In the final WHL preseason contest for both clubs, the Tigers shutout the Rebels 3-0.
“At times we were pretty scrambley. At times our youth showed, especially on the back end when you’re playing a team that’s quick. We had some opportunities I guess, maybe game-changers and we didn’t capitalize,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter.
“At times we got hemmed in our own zone and we have a lot of work to do with this group. Young kids, you have to spend a lot of time with them and teach them the right way to play. We need our veterans playing the right way. They have to play the right way so it allows us to teach the kids.”
Ethan Anders was easily the best player for Red Deer in the game Saturday. The second-year netminder from Regina, Sask., turned aside 42 shots in the loss and kept the Rebels within reach of the Tigers all night.
“That’s the way we need him to play. He’s experienced now. Been in the league for a year. Very confident. We need that from him,” Sutter said.
The best chance for the Rebels to climb back in the game came when they trailed 2-0 with just over three minutes to play. Josh Tarzwell fired a pass across to Chris Douglas on a 2-on-1, but Tigers goalie Mads Sogaard got just enough of the shot to keep it out. Rebels veteran forward Jeff de Wit also had a pair of golden scoring opportunities late in the game but could not convert.
Nanaimo, B.C. native Dawson Heathcote buried for the Tigers midway through the first and Gary Haden cashed in a loose puck on the power play in the second.
Tigers forward Tyler Preziuso rounded out the scoring with an empty-net goal in the third.
Sogaard, the Tigers 2018 CHL Import draft pick and rookie Garin Bjorklund made 34 saves in the combined shutout effort.
With the loss, Red Deer finished the exhibition season 1-2-2.
Sutter said with such a young forward group, one that could feature as many as seven 17-year-olds on opening night there is going to be a lot of growth throughout the season.
He noted players like Alex Morozoff, Arshdeep Bains, Zak Smith and River Fahey will play a big role how the team develops this season.
“Just progression. It’s just not what we’re going to be on Friday. There’s more to it than that. We need to get better every day and see where it takes us,” Sutter said.
“It’s not where we’re going to be in game one of the regular season. It’s where we’re going to be 10 games in and 25 games in. These young players are learning how to play at this level. Even the kids who were here as 16-year-olds last year, they didn’t have prominent roles. They were effective in the things they did and it pushed the older guys to be better. Now they’re falling into the holes the older guys left.”
Before the game Saturday, the Rebels reassigned a pair of 16-year-old forwards. Ethan Rowland was sent to the Calgary Canucks of the Alberta Midget Hockey League and Jordan Borysiuk was sent to the Lloydminster Bobcats. With the moves, the Rebels cut their roster down to 25 players.
The Rebels will drop the puck on the WHL regular season Friday in Edmonton against the Oil Kings. On Saturday, they will host the Oil Kings in the Red Deer Advocate Home Opener with puck drop set for 7 p.m. at the Centrium.