The Red Deer Rebels will be looking to build on their last period when they take on the Kootenay Ice in a Western Hockey League game tonight at Cranbrook.
They’ll also be aiming for a different outcome.
The Rebels outshot the Brandon Wheat Kings 19-4 in the third period Sunday at the Centrium, yet came out on the short end of a 6-5 count.
“Look at the third period the other night. That was the best period of hockey we’ve played in the last four games, unfortunately we made a bad mistake and gave up a late goal,” Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter said Tuesday, alluding to the Rebels’ domination of the visiting Wheat Kings over the final 20 minutes and the turnover by defenceman Mathew Dumba that led to Michael Ferland’s winning tally.
With their third-period push, the Rebels enjoyed a 42-29 advantage in shots, but shaky netminding by veteran Bolton Pouliot and then rookie Grant Naherniak cost the team dearly. Pouliot was yanked just 5:27 into the contest after giving up a soft goal and Naherniak surrendered five goals the rest of the way, with two or three being of the weak variety.
Sutter wrestled with the notion of leaving Pouliot between the pipes, but decided he had to make a statement.
“When you score five goals and get 40 plus shots on net that has to be a for sure two points,” said Sutter.
“Obviously our goaltending wasn’t very good the other night. Unfortunately Grant was put in a tough spot and ‘Pouls’ needs to be better. He wasn’t great against Edmonton at home (in a 6-1 loss Friday) and let in a bad first goal Sunday.
“As a coach, do you leave him in there or do you send a message to not just him, but the rest of the group, that average play is unacceptable? That was basically my decision at that point in time. Grant was able to get some experience and unfortunately he didn’t have one of his better games.
“I thought he handled himself well in the first period, but he really fought it in the second period.”
Pouliot was start tonight against the Ice, with Naherniak in the back-up role. Naherniak will be returned to the midget AAA Moose Jaw Generals when Rebels’ No. 1 stopper Patrik Bartosak returns from the World Junior Championship in Russia, where he led the Czech Republic into a quarter-final match with the United States earlier today.
The Rebels will be without the services of defencemen Brady Gaudet and Riley Boomgaarden tonight, as well as forward Jesse Miller. Boomgaarden (lower body) and Miller (upper body) are out indefinitely, while Gaudet will have his hand injury — suffered in last Thursday’s 5-3 win at Edmonton — re-evaluated Friday and will be lost to the club from one to four weeks.
Meanwhile, forward Scott Feser will remain with the Rebels for at least another week. Feser, recently summoned from the Camrose Kodiaks of the AJHL, has played five games with the Rebels and scored his first WHL regular-season goal in Sunday’s setback.
“Because of numbers we’ll be keeping him at least until the (Jan. 10) trade deadline,” said Sutter, whose roster is also minus forward Conner Bleackley and defenceman Haydn Fleury, both of whom are currently playing in the World Under 17 Challenge in Quebec.
Fleury picked up a single assist for 0-3 Team West, which will take on Team Pacific today and will play in a relegation game Thursday. Sutter is hoping the 16-year-old rearguard will fly into Calgary Friday and be available for Saturday’s home game versus the Moose Jaw Warriors.
Bleackley has scored twice for Team Pacific, which improved to 2-1 with a 5-4 shootout win over Finland Tuesday. The High River native won’t be back in the Rebels’ lineup until Sunday, when Red Deer returns to Cranbrook for another date with the Ice.
Grayson Pawlenchuk, a ‘97-born forward, made his Rebels debut Sunday and will play again tonight and possibly Friday against visiting Vancouver and Saturday versus Moose Jaw.
On another note, netminder Spencer Tremblay, who suffered a knee injury in his lone start with Red Deer, has returned home to Winnipeg and is no longer on the Rebels’ protected players list.
• The Medicine Hat Tigers dealt disgruntled centre Jayden Hart, 18, and offensive defenceman Dylan Busenius, 19, to the Prince Albert Raiders Tuesday in return for centre Logan McVeigh, 18, defencemen Zach Hodder, 19, and Connor Hobbs, 15, and a second-round pick in this year’s WHL bantam draft.
Sutter had some interest in Hart, who decided not to report back to the Tigers following the Christmas break.
• Forward Adam Musil, the Rebels’ first pick in the 2012 WHL bantam draft, recorded seven points (3g,4a) for the Greater Vancouver Canadians in the Calgary Mac’s midget AAA tournament which concluded Tuesday.
Goaltender Taz Burman, another 2012 pick, allowed seven goals in two games for the 3-2-0 Canadians while stopping 68 of 75 shots.
Here’s how other Rebels prospects fared in the Mac’s event:
• Forward Chase Thudium had three goals and five points for the 3-2-0 Red Deer Rebels Chiefs. Meanwhile, defenceman Kaleb Denham picked up a pair of assists while appearing in four games.
• Forward Mason McCarty scored once and added an assist in three games with the 0-2-2 UFA Bisons.
• Forward Earl Webb was pointless for the 0-4-0 Calgary Buffaloes.
• Defenceman Austin Strand collected two assists for the 0-2-2 Calgary Northstars.
• Listed forward Connor Bucsis had one goal and two assists with the 1-3-0 Tisdale Trojans.
• Listed goaltender Rylan Toth posted a 1-1 record, allowed five goals and stopped 47 of the 52 shots he faced for the Battlefords Stars, who finished 2-2-0.