Unlike last season there will be no 15-0 start for the Red Deer Rebels.
On Friday night in the home opener, the Rebels lost to the Edmonton Oil Kings for the first time in over a year 4-2 at the Peavey Mart Centrium in front of 4,625 fans.
The Rebels came away with nine wins against Oil Kings in 2022-23 but this time around a lack of scoring, particularly on the powerplay, led to the Rebels’ demise.
Head coach Derrick Walser was happy with his team’s effort in the first period but in the second, Walser didn’t like what he saw.
“I thought the crowd was amazing… In the second period, we came out not like men and they came out and made a big push,” he said.
“We had no answer for it and then we got into penalty trouble. Our powerplay wasn’t good enough tonight. We can’t just count on those guys to do it but five on five I thought we executed in the first period.
“Second period we were on our heels and then the third period was all penalties so we never really got in the flow.”
The Rebels were awarded eight powerplays but only converted on one opportunity. The Oil Kings also struggled on the man advantage going one for six.
“We were too slow. We were taking too long to shoot the puck and we weren’t getting to the paint,” he said.
“Somwtimes you’re not shooting to score you’re shooting for a second and a rebound. Every time we put something in the feet there was a clustre in front of the net.
“Then you’ve got to get hungry. We weren’t hungry enough. Edmonton was and they manned up. Now we have to go back and play them tomorrow.”
The Oil Kings opened the scoring nearly seven minutes into the first period. On the offensive rush, Marshall Finnie fired a shot past Rebels goalie Kyle Kelsey.
Red Deer tied the game later in the period on the powerplay when forward Kai Uchacz blasted a one-timer from the top of the left circle. Uchacz led the Rebels with 50 goals during the 2022-23 season.
With one minute remaining in the opening period, two Edmonton forwards were sprung on a breakaway after a Rebels defenceman fell down at the blue line. However, Kelsey made a fantastic save with his left toe to keep the puck out of the net.
The Oil Kings took the lead once again just under five minutes into the second period off the stick of forward Aidan Litke.
Edmonton got the 3-1 insurance goal with three and a half minutes left in the game.
With Kai Uchacz and Nicholas Andrusiak in the penalty box, Oil Kings forward Kian Bell fired the rebound into the open net while on a five-on-three powerplay.
The Rebels kept on the pressure with under three minutes to play. They were rewarded when Carson Latimer notched his first goal as a Rebel off a one-timer in the slot.
However, the Oil Kings scored the empty netter to seal the deal despite a late Rebels push.
Uchacz said after the game it wasn’t the start they wanted but the sun will once again ride tomorrow.
“We get another stab with these guys. We’re going to come with a game plan and bring the energy tomorrow. Hopefully, we go take two points.”
The Rebels will head to Edmonton on Saturday night before hosting the Medicine Hat Tigers next Friday.