It was quite a ride but the Red Deer Rebels could no longer avoid the inevitable as they lost their first game of the season Tuesday night against the Winnipeg Ice 3-1.
It was a battle between two heavyweights who sit in the top two spots of the Eastern Conference in the Western Hockey League but the Ice came out on top. The Rebels came into the matchup with a historic 15-0 run to begin the season and the Ice were 15-1 and now own the top spot in the conference.
After a scoreless first period, the Ice opened the scoring on the powerplay with a goal by defenceman Ben Zloty. Five minutes later, Winnipeg added another when Skyler Bruce fired one into the back of the net.
Toward the end of the second period, the Rebels went on a two-minute powerplay that extended into the final frame. Approximately 13 seconds into the third period Winnipeg’s Matthew Savoie scored a shorthanded tally to extend their lead 3-0.
However, the Rebels did not go away quietly. With roughly seven minutes rookie forward Carson Birnie scored his second of the year off an assist by Kai Uchacz.
Head coach Steve Konowalchuk said what went wrong for his team was their special team’s play. Despite holding the Ice to just one powerplay goal on seven attempts he said they took too many penalties. The Rebels also were held scoreless on six powerplay opportunities.
“They scored on the powerplay and they scored a shorthanded goal. That’s two goals right there so that’s probably the biggest thing,” he said. “It’s too many penalties. We have a certain amount we like to be under… You’re not generating offence and you’re not creating momentum. You’re taking guys out of your lineup that don’t get the ice time all of a sudden so it’s not a good team concept.”
Konowalchuk said he wants his team to clean up the special teams’ play so they can play more minutes at full strength.
The Rebels came into Tuesday’s game with the Ice riding a 15-game winning streak. The run was historic for central Alberta’s team who broke numerous records in the process. Firstly they broke two franchise records including the most consecutive wins to begin the season and the longest winning streak in team history. And lastly, they beat the Western Hockey League record for the most consecutive wins to begin a season in the modern era of the league.
The Rebels will try to split the back-to-back matchup with the Ice on Wednesday night at 6:05 p.m. Before they head to Brandon on Friday to take on the Wheat Kings at 1:30 p.m. MDT.