Thunderbirds 5 Rebels 4 (shootout)
Growing pains have come in bunches this season for the Red Deer Rebels and they experienced a few more against the Seattle Thunderbirds.
Some undisciplined play in the second period cost Red Deer crucial momentum and a pair of bad line changes early in the third made matters worse.
Seattle had a 4-2 lead with under five minutes to play and it took a herculean effort for Zak Smith to help the home side capture a point.
The 18-year-old buried twice in 16 seconds late in the third, first snipping on Thunderbirds netminder Roddy Ross at 4:06 then converting a 2-on-1 with 3:50 left to tie the game at four. Smith now has five goals in his last four games.
Nobody found the net in overtime and only Simon Kubicek scored in the shootout to pick up the 5-4 victory for Seattle in front of 3,933 fans at the Centrium. It was the Rebels sixth straight loss as they dropped to 1-5-0-2 at the Centrium this year.
“The first half of the game, we were in really good shape and I thought we were playing well. We took three minor penalties in just under six minutes and they got some momentum off that. I didn’ think we played as well after that point,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter.
“We gave them some life, they got skating and moving and we got on our heels a little bit. We battled hard to get back in the last four minutes.”
Early in the game, the Rebels came out of the gate strong and looked in control. Midway through the first period, Ethan Sakowich feathered in his third goal of the season from the half wall.
Undeterred, just 1:25 later, Jared Davidson brought the visitors even after a scramble in front of Anders.
Red Deer outshot the Thunderbirds 17-13 in the opening frame.
Early in the second, it was a special moment for one Red Deer Rebels defenceman. Christoffer Sedoff, the team’s 2019 WHL Import pick from Finland buried his first career WHL goal. He wired a wrist shot from the point and it went high glove on Ross.
Four straight penalties finally caught up to Red Deer in the final minute of the second. Former Rebel Ryan Gottfried connected with Andrej Kukuca at the side of the Rebels goal and tapped it in to tie the game at two.
“It just takes you out of the flow. You use only certain guys killing penalties and they then get wore down. You look at your defence, you only have two experienced defencemen back there,” Sutter said.
“When you take penalties like that, it takes momentum away from you. Some guys have to play more than they should at key times. Especially late in the period.”
That goal seemed to suck the life out of the home side, as they allowed a pair of goals 1:21 apart early in the third.
Two critical mistakes by young players were the difference in the loss. First, a bad change by Ethan Rowland led to an unassisted goal from Luke Bateman. A minute and a half later, while playing 4-on-4, Arshdeep Bains turned the puck over behind the Rebels net and Matthew Wedman hit Henrik Rybinski out front before he slipped a quick shot past Ethan Anders.
Smith willed the Rebels back, burying a wrister on Ross to cut the deficit to a goal.
Just 16 seconds later, he was at it again on a 2-on-1 with Josh Tarzwell to tie the game. All three Rebels, Smith, Cam Hausinger and Brett Davis failed to beat Ross in the shootout.
Anders made 36 saves in the loss, while Ross, who attended Rebels rookie camp in 2016 stopped 32 to earn the win.
Red Deer will play their next six games on the road and are back home on Nov. 15 against the Medicine Hat Tigers.