Oil Kings 5 Rebels 3
A streak was bound to end one way or another Wednesday night in Edmonton.
The Red Deer Rebels (14-7-1-0) were riding high heading into the contest, winners of their last five to go along with victories in three of the last four games this season against Edmonton. The Oil Kings (14-3-2-1) meanwhile, had won five straight and made it six in a row with the narrow victory Wednesday at Rogers Place.
Red Deer learned just how quickly the WHL’s Central Division-leading Oil Kings can turn the tables, allowing three straight second-period goals on the way to a 5-3 loss.
Despite a strong first period, Red Deer trialed 3-1 midway through the second had to find a way to battle back against one of the premier teams in the WHL.
Jace Isley buried his first of the year after a nice cycle with Kai Uchacz and with an Edmonton tally in between, Carter Anderson got the visitors within a goal late 6:44 into the third, tipping home a Christofer Sedoff point shot.
“It was a little bit back and forth. I didn’t think it was all bad. I think there were some breakdowns that they scored some quick goals on,” Rebels head coach Steve Konowalchuk said.
“Felt we were able to generate and get some looks on their goalie. It was there for us at the end. We had a good chance to tie it, so it wasn’t all bad. Obviously not satisfied. Still think we can play better… that’s a good team they push back as well.”
Red Deer’s seemingly reliable power play failed them in the contest, going cold in six straight opportunities after a goal late in the first from Uchacz. Down 4-3 in the third, Red Deer had a golden opportunity on the man advantage to tie the game but couldn’t convert.
Shortly after the power play expired, Jalen Luypen slipped his second of the night past Coward to seal the 5-3 win.
“I thought we had some good looks on the power play especially in the second period…Real timely power play at the end of the game there, you’d like to see something, doesn’t happen all the time,” Konowalchuck said.
Uchacz scored the only goal of the opening frame when he tipped a great pass from Ben King through the legs of Sebastian Cossa. Red Deer’s power play is now up to 26 goals on the year.
As good as it looked in the first, things got away from the Rebels early in the second.
Just 94 seconds into the frame after an Oil Kings penalty expired, Jake Neighbours drove into the Rebels’ zone and hit Carson Golder who was all alone in the slot and buried his second of the season shorthanded.
Edmonton kept pushing and buried twice 41 seconds apart near the midway point of the period. Dylan Guenther wired home a one-timer at 6:34 before Luypen beat Coward from a long way out off the rush at 7:15.
“Those happened quick, I didn’t think we were going too bad,” Konowalchuk said.
“Bang, bang next thing you know it’s 3-1. Had to regroup there, thought we did and gave ourselves a chance.”
Jace Isley scored his first of the year the Rebels within one, but Josh Williams quickly restored the two-goal advantage on the power play with 1:41 left in the frame.
In the third, the resilient Rebels kept pushing before the goal from Anderson got them within one. Cossa was solid when called upon to keep the Oil Kings’ advantage, finishing the night with 30 saves. Coward stopped 24 shots in the losing cause.
Despite the loss, the battle for top spot in the Central Division was heated all night long and took on a playoff feel as expected from two teams on a roll.
“It was a good hockey game. Both teams played hard, there was some extra emotion in the game,” Konowalchuk said.
Three stars: Luypen (1), Guenther (2), Neighbours (3)
The Rebels will welcome the Saskatoon Blades to town Saturday, before hosting Connor Bedard and the Regina Pats Saturday.