Hurricanes 2 Rebels 1 (OT)
LETHBRIDGE — The Red Deer Rebels were minus three regulars when they tangled with the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Monday afternoon, but Jesse Wallin wasn’t using their absence as an alibi for a 2-1 Western Hockey League overtime loss.
“We just didn’t play very well. It wasn’t a very good game on our part,” said the Rebels head coach/VP of hockey operations. “We didn’t have enough battle, didn’t have enough compete . . . didn’t create enough.”
The Rebels fired 31 shots at Hurricanes netminder Brandon Anderson, but Wallin down played that statistic.
“Most of them were from the perimeter,” he said.
“Outside of a few shifts early in the third period where we showed some life, we just didn’t have enough urgency in our game today.”
Rebels forward Colten Mayor was front and centre during one of the early third-period shifts to which Wallin referred, breaking a scoreless tie at 5:45 with his eighth goal of the season.
But the ‘Canes responded seven minutes later with a power-play marker from Russell Maxwell, and Brody Sutter beat Rebels netminder Darcy Kuemper 69 seconds into overtime.
The single point the Rebels gained gave them an eight-point cushion over the second-place Medicine Hat Tigers in the Central Division.
The Kootenay Ice are 10 points back of Red Deer with three games in hand, while the Tigers have played two fewer games than the Rebels.
While his squad managed to snare five of six points in a four-day span which included home-ice overtime wins over Lethbridge and Kamloops, Wallin was far from satisfied.
“We should have had all six points. Today was an especially frustrating game because we just didn’t battle hard enough,” he said.
“At the same time, give Lethbridge credit. They worked hard. They’re a desperate team looking for that final playoff spot (the Canes’ are three points behind eighth-place Prince Albert in the Eastern Conference). But we have to have that same mentality and we just didn’t have enough guys who had it today or on the weekend.”
The Rebels, who got an 18-save performance from Kuemper on Monday, are seemingly in a period of stagnation.
“We’ve been in it for a few games now and we have to snap out of it quickly,” said Wallin, looking ahead to a clash with Kootenay on Wednesday at the Centrium.
“Typically we’ve played better against good teams and obviously the game coming up is a huge divisional game and we have to respond in the right way.”
l On Monday, the Rebels were missing injured defenceman Matthew Dumba and forwards Josh Cowen and John Persson, who were hurt in Saturday’s win over Kamloops.
Dumba, sidelined the past 10 days with a knee injury, and Persson, who is sporting numerous bumps and bruises after crashing head-first into the end boards, might return against the Ice.
“John is banged up. But with a day off today and another tomorrow, hopefully he’ll be ready to go on Wednesday,” said Wallin.
Cowen won’t be available for at least three weeks after undergoing surgery on Sunday for a broken hand. He sustained the injury when he was checked from behind into the boards by Kamloops defenceman Josh Caron, who was assessed a major penalty and game misconduct and has since been handed a three-game suspension.
“The surgeon inserted a titanium plate and screwed three bones together,” said Wallin. “The healing process is quicker because of that.”