Tigers 2 Rebels 1
STETTLER — An uneven performance on Saturday left the Red Deer Rebels with a rather lopsided Western Hockey League preseason record.
The Rebels encountered difficulties in establishing a regular rhythm in their final exhibition contest and fell 2-1 to the Medicine Hat Tigers before a healthy gathering at the Stettler Recreation Centre.
It certainly wasn’t all bad, as the Rebels carried the play through the second half of the game. But they found a way to lose — again — and finished the preseason without a win in six outings.
“We were a little inconsistent at times tonight. We did some good things and at other times we were on a heels a bit,” said Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin.
“We were soft in our zone, particularly in the second period, but we got out there in the third and got back to our game. We had some sustained pressure in the third and didn’t give them much, other than the power play they scored on.”
Newcomer Miles Koules potted the winner at 9:28 of the final frame with Rebels overage forward Charles Inglis serving a cross checking penalty. Red Deer successfully killed off an infraction just second before Inglis was flagged and the Tigers took advantage of their second straight man-advantage opportunity.
“Ultimately that was the difference for us in the game, again,” said Wallin, whose squad fell 2-1 to the Edmonton Oil Kings on an overtime power-play tally 24 hours earlier.
“We took a bad penalty there, a veteran play can’t take that penalty.
“That ended up being the difference in the game, but we had some chances on our own power play late and didn’t capitalize. You have to bear down on the opportunities you get.”
The Rebels created more than their share of scoring chances while outshooting the Tigers 30-27, but as was the case through most of the preseason, they struggled to find the back of the net and in fact simply misfired on several occasions. Tigers goaltender Kenny Camerson came up with 29 saves, four more than Rebels stopper Patrik Bartosak.
“We had some real quality chances, especially in the third perod. We has some in real tight around the net but just didn’t execute,” said Wallin.
“We had some plays in the slot where we shot right at the goaltender and we had a couple of backdoor plays where we just missed the puck.
“We generated some opportunities, espcially in third period, but we have to find a way to capitalize on them.”
Tigers sniper Hunter Shinkaruk raced down the left wing and beat Bartosak to the glove side 10:38 into the contest and the goal help up until Czech defenceman Jan Bittner pulled the Rebels even early in the third period. Colten Mayor out-battled a Tigers defenceman in the corner and threw the puck out front to Bittner, whose quick release cauht the top of the net.
But that was it for the Rebels, who pressured the visitors with a power play and an extra man for Bartosak in the final minute.
“It was kind of a frustrating game. It felt like we struggled in our D zone a bit and yet there were times when we broke out and generated pressure in their end,” said Rebels captain Adam Kambeitz.
While thoroughly disappointed with the outcome and the 0-6 preseason record, Wallin said the team will look ahead and put in a solid week of practice leading into their regular-season opener on Friday versus the visiting Calgary Hitmen.
“We can’t dwell on it,” said Wallin. “You play to win every time you step on the ice and it’s frustrating when you don’t, but yet we had some players who we wanted to evaluate and get a look at and we feel like we did that through the preseason.
“It’s onward and upward. It is what is is. We’ve gone through the evaluation process and now the real thing starts Friday and this week we have to focus on getting ready for that. It’s all zeros right now and we want to start the right way come Friday.”
Kambeitz offered similar sentiments in regards to the winless preseason.
“We’re not happy about it and we know we have to get better, but we wake up tomorrow and the preseason is over, it’s a wash,” he said. “We’re going into the regular season now and our goal is to get ready and to come out with a win that first night.”
Kambeitz is also optimistic that the Rebels’ scoring woes will end soon.
“I think maybe it comes down to just feeling confident of putting pucks in the net and that will come with practice and hard work,” he said. “We have a full week of practice coming up and I know we’ll be working on that. Just bearing down in practice hopefully will pay off in games.”
• The Rebels released forward Ryley Bennefield following Saturday’s game. Bennefield, 18, joined the team last week on a tryout basis . . . The Calgary Hitmen acquired Olds native and left wing Zane Jones and a sixth-round pick in the 2013 bantam draft from the Victoria Royals on Saturday in return for overage left winger Alex Gogolev and a fourth-round pick in the 2013 draft. Jones recorded 32 points, including 14 goals, and 64 penalty minutes over 68 games as a member of the Royals in 2011-12.