The Red Deer Rebels got caught looking too far into the future on Friday night.
With a playoff position secured, their opponent settled and only an outside shot at home ice advantage in the first round, the Rebels were flat in their final regular season home game.
The Kootenay Ice took advantage, scoring early and often in a sound 6-2 defeat of the Rebels in front of 5,205 fans at the Centrium.
“Not good. Outside of the Douglas line that played well. Our top two lines got outplayed tonight,” Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter said.
“We took some bad penalties and our penalty killing wasn’t very good tonight. We didn’t work hard enough on it, but that was just a reflection of what our game was. We just didn’t play hard enough to think we can win.”
The loss means the Rebels are locked into third in the Central division with one game to play.
The Ice scored three times on the man-advantage and the Rebels were scoreless in three power play opportunities.
Alec Baer got the party started for the visitors early in the first when he busted off the half wall fired a shot glove side past Riley Lamb.
The ice got a fortunate bounce in the final seconds of the opening frame when a loose puck landed on the stick of Colton Kroeker who scored with one second left in the period. The play was reviewed but it was determined the puck crossed the goal light before the buzzer sounded.
Kootenay out shot the Rebels 20-4 in the opening period.
“You can’t give up that many quality scoring chances at this time of year and think you can have success. We chased the game all night,” Sutter said.
The second period featured a flurry of goals late in the frame.
Brandon Cutler sliced the Rebels’ deficit to a goal at 7:54 of the period. The 18-year-old forward fired a pass to Chris Douglas, but it hit an Ice defender in the skates and trickled in past Matt Berlin.
Kootenay restored the two-goal cushion after Brett Davis spotted Gillian Kohler in front of Riley Lamb. He tipped a shot post and in past the Rebels netminder to extend the advantage.
Rebels leading scorer Mason McCarty got the home side back in the game quickly with a wrist shot along the ice that beat Berlin. It was the 20-year-old, Blackie Alta. native’s 38th goal of the season.
The visitors scored their fourth of the night on the power play late in the second.
Martin Bodak powered behind the Rebels net and hit Keenan Taphorn with a pass in front and the forward put his seventh goal of the season past a sprawling Lamb.
Down three with 7:15 to play in the third, Sutter made the unorthodox decision to pull his goalie. Peyton Krebs found the empty net for the Ice just 37 seconds later.
Two missed penalty calls in the third had the Rebels hot, as Brandon Hagel was hauled down on a shorthanded breakaway late in the period and Josh Tarzwell was left bloody after hit with a high stick.
“Sure there’s things in a game that don’t go your way with penalties. But, it still doesn’t have an impact on what we didn’t do as far as how we had to play. It just wasn’t a very good game,” Sutter added.
Lamb finished the night with 31 saves for Red Deer while Berlin stopped 26 shots for the Ice.
The Rebels will play their final regular season game in Cranbrook against the Ice, before the playoffs start next week. The Rebels will start the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final in Lethbridge for two games, before Game 3 in Red Deer on Tuesday, March 27.