The Red Deer Rebels experienced a bit of a holiday hangover in their return from the Christmas break Wednesday.
After Alex Alexeyev opened the scoring just 85 seconds into the game, the Rebels struggled through most of the next 55 minutes and fell 3-1 to the last place Edmonton Oil Kings.
“We weren’t good enough tonight. The first period was terrible and we were obviously not ready to play. They outworked us tonight,” Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter said.
“When we play right, we had shifts where we did some good things, but we had too many shifts when we didn’t get engaged and finish checks and we chased a lot. We took some penalties that you can’t take, that part was disappointing. We finished the break off the right way– we played well for the last four games and tonight we weren’t the same team.”
The Alexeyev goal came 34 seconds into a power play in the first, but the Rebels only managed five shots in the opening frame and also sat for four minor penalties.
Late in the first, Austin Pratt was engaged in a fight and a second Edmonton player jumped in. Several other scuffles broke out in the melee and after it was all finished the teams played five-on-five. Sutter was unhappy with the call and earned a bench minor after he continued to argue with the referee well into the play. On the ensuing man advantage, Davis Koch scored just six seconds in and tied the game at one.
Trey Fix-Wolansky notched his 13th goal of the season just under three minutes later when Koch hit him on the rush and Fix-Wolansky buried a backhand high past Rebels goalie Ethan Anders.
Davis Kope scored two minutes into the second and really crushed any hope of a Rebels comeback.
Anders turned aside 16 shots in the first period for the Rebels and finished the game with 30.
The loss is a tough one in the WHL Central Division standings, as Oil Kings moved within six points of Red Deer for fourth place in the division and the Kootenay Ice beat the Calgary Hitmen in overtime. With the overtime loss, the Hitmen moved one point ahead of the Rebels in the Central. Kootenay is now eight points up on the Rebels.
It is unacceptable. That’s the frustrating thing,” Sutter said.
”We talked about it before the game, if we want to catch the teams in front of us, we have to do our part and as individuals, you have to do your part and be ready to play. We have to play to our systems and structure and you have to have a work ethic and structure and compete hard…. you can’t expect to win in this league if you play like that.”
The Rebels will take on the Oil Kings Thursday night in Edmonton.