Red Deer Rebels forward Josh Tarzwell battles for a puck in front of Edmonton Oil Kings goalie Sebastian Cossa in the first period of WHL action at the Centrium. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

Red Deer Rebels struggle early, fall to Oil Kings

Oil Kings 5 Rebels 1

It’s been a tough stretch for the Red Deer Rebels.

After a pair of disparaging losses last weekend on the road, a return home to the Centrium Friday did no favours for the group.

The division-leading Edmonton Oil Kings came into the contest red hot with wins in five of the last six and they kept rolling over Friday.

Edmonton scored early and often, with five different goal scorers finding twine in the 5-1 victory.

“I thought the first period hurt us. When you put yourself down three in the first, it makes it tough to come back against a team like that,” Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter said.

It started poorly right off the hop for the home side, just under two minutes into the game. Edmonton made the Rebels pay on the first of many turnovers. After Red Deer coughed it up trying to exit their own zone, Jake Neighbours tapped a pass to David Kope, who dished to Riley Sawchuck and he made no mistake on his sixth goal of the season.

Red Deer did manage some sustained pressure in the Oil Kings’ end after that until the visitors turned it around and struck quickly. A point shot from Keagan Slaney was tipped by Jalen Luypen just before the midway point of the frame.

It went from bad to worse when Brett Davis turned the puck over in the slot right to Josh Williams, who quickly backhanded a shot past Ethan Anders.

“It was basically three freebies. You turn the puck over inside the blue line on the first goal and allow a 3-on-2 inside – bad positional play on the second one, we run around and they get a clear shot from the point,” Sutter said.

“Third one, we’re trying to be too cute when you’re coming out of the zone as the last man. You’re a forward and you turn the puck over and it’s in the back of our net… you’re down three and that’s a good hockey team.”

The onslaught continued in the second, with Vlad Alistrov getting in on the action.

Matthew Robertson also joined the goal parade 1:03 later, only eight seconds into a Jayden Grubbe cross-checking minor. From there, the Rebels settled down and worked to get back into the contest.

Chase Leslie had the only Rebels goal late in the second, his first of the season and Byron Fancy stopped all 16 shots in relief of Anders.

“I keep saying it, it’s gotta be another learning curve for us. We hope we’re learning from it. I was telling the players, we thought we had a really, really good week of practice. Probably the best we’ve had all year. When you work on those things you gotta implement them in the game. When we did it, we were pretty solid,” Sutter said.

“When we get away from that and try and play east-west hockey and we get soft on pucks, then you start having turnovers and spend too much time in your own zone. That happened at different points, when we did it the right way, we were fine.”

Oil Kings goalie Sebastian Cossa stopped 21 shots to pick up his third victory of the season.

Red Deer finished 0-for-5 on the power play, while the Oil Kings cashed in on one of their five power play chances.

The Rebels welcome the Regina Pats to town Saturday, who are 1-10 on the WHL season.

Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

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Red Deer Rebels defenceman Kyle Masters battles with Carter Souch for a puck late in the first period of WHL action at the Centrium. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

Edmonton Oil Kings forward Jesse Seppala tries to knock a puck in at the side of the net on Red Deer Rebels goalie Ethan Anders in the first period of play at the Centrium Friday. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

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