The puck finally dropped Friday on the 24-game WHL Central Division season. The Red Deer Rebels hosted the Medicine Hat Tigers in the first game of the shortened 2020-21 season. (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)

The puck finally dropped Friday on the 24-game WHL Central Division season. The Red Deer Rebels hosted the Medicine Hat Tigers in the first game of the shortened 2020-21 season. (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)

Tigers come back to spoil Red Deer Rebels home opener

It’s been nearly 345 days since the Red Deer Rebels last played hockey.

That difficult and strange time hit a brief pause Friday night as the WHL dropped the puck on the 24-game 2020-21 WHL Central division season.

Everything may have looked foreign, from the empty, albeit slick new-look black seats and upgraded jumbotron– to the piped-in crowd noise and linesmen wearing masks, but a hockey game was finally played at the Westerner Park Centrium.

The last game at that ice was 349 days ago– a world away from where life is today. But it was real, live WHL hockey.

“Of course it felt amazing to be back on the ice with our teammates. Being able to just be competitive out there, get back to doing the thing that I love is a great feeling,” said Rebels veteran forward Chris Douglas.

Red Deer looked in control for 50 minutes, but let a win slip away in the home opener against the Medicine Hat Tigers, blowing a 4-1 lead in the third period before the visitors snatched the 5-4 win in overtime.

“The last 10 minutes, we stopped moving our feet and started getting sloppy,” Rebels GM and head coach Brent Sutter said.

“Getting away from the things we’ve been working on the last two weeks – play the right way. Started having turnovers. The game got sloppy for us the last 10 minutes. We just lost our focus. I don’t know if the kids thought it would be easy because we were up 4-1.”

Corson Hopwo scored twice in the third for the Tigers, including a tip-in on the power play with 1:58 to play in the game to get Medicine Hat within a goal. Lukas Svejkovsky notched the game-tying tally with 41 seconds left.

Hopwo ended the night with his hat trick, on a partial breakaway that slid past Rebels goalie Ethan Anders.

“It wasn’t a good last 10 minutes of the third and we paid for it, in overtime we had three turnovers when we had the puck on our stick and they ended up going down and getting quality scoring chances,” Sutter said.

Tigers’ forward Nick McCarry opened the scoring 4:20 into the game but the Rebels took over from there, scoring four straight.

Red Deer tied the game on the power play just three minutes after the opening goal. Ben King hit Jayden Grubbe and the side of the Tigers goal and the 18-year-old NHL Draft eligible centre stuffed in his first tally of the year.

The Rebels grabbed a 2-1 lead just 82 seconds into the second period. Red Deer native Keaton Sorensen drove wide and slipped a pass out to a wide-open Ethan Rowland. The winger only found the net three times in 57 games last year.

Kyle Masters extended the advantage just past the halfway point of the second, blasting a wrist shot over the glove of Tigers’ netminder Garin Bjorklund.

Douglas opened up a three-goal a nifty steal at the Tigers blueline. He went in alone and beat Bjorklund five-hole to open up a 4-1 lead before it all fell apart for the home side.

“You get four straight goals scored against you, we did not play the right way in our own zone defensively in the third period. There’s always going to be ups and downs throughout games, but you can’t have that happen, especially in the third period when you’re pushing to take the win,” he said.

Bjorklund made 29 saves in the victory, while Anders turned aside 26 shots in the loss.

The Rebels and Tigers will play the second half of the home-and-home Saturday in Medicine Hat.



Send your news tips

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

The Red Deer Rebels celebrate Jayden Grubbe’s first goal of the 2020-21 WHL season. Friday was the Rebels’ home opener and the first game of the shortened 24-game season, which will include only Alberta teams. (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)

The Red Deer Rebels celebrate Jayden Grubbe’s first goal of the 2020-21 WHL season. Friday was the Rebels’ home opener and the first game of the shortened 24-game season, which will include only Alberta teams. (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)

Just Posted

Red Deer Rebels forward Ethan Rowland battles with Medicine Hat Tigers forward Brett Kemp during WHL action at the Centrium Saturday night. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers claw back, hand Rebels 11th straight loss

Tigers 5 Rebels 2 The same old issues continue to plague the… Continue reading

There were six additional deaths across Alberta reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,926 since the beginning of the pandemic. (File photo)
AstraZeneca vaccine is ready to be used at a homeless shelter in Romford, east London, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein
AstraZeneca-linked blood clot confirmed in Alberta

A case of an AstraZeneca-linked blood clot has been confirmed in Alberta,… Continue reading

The Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools Board of Trustees selected the name St. Lorenzo Ruiz Middle School to be built in the north end of Red Deer. (Photo Courtesy of  Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools)
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raises about $8,720 for Terry Fox Foundation

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raised about $8,720 for the Terry Fox… Continue reading

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Alberta declines Ontario’s request to send health-care workers

Alberta is “not in a position” to send health-care workers out of… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

Ontario Premier Doug Ford points on a COVID-19 caseload projection model graph during a press conference at Queen's Park, in Toronto, Friday, April 16, 2021. Ontario was set to backtrack on controversial new police powers to enforce stay-at-home orders implemented in the battle against COVID-19.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ford backtracks on new police COVID-19 powers amid intense backlash

TORONTO — Furious criticism of new anti-pandemic powers that allow police in… Continue reading

The official program for the National Commemorative Ceremony in honour of Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, sits on an empty pew prior to the ceremony at Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa on Saturday, April 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Prince Philip remembered as ‘a man of great service’ during Canada’s memorial service

Canada’s commemorative ceremony in honour of the late Prince Philip offered a… Continue reading

CF Montreal head coach Wilfried Nancy speaks to his players during the team's practice Tuesday, March 16, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
CF Montreal puts on a show, defeating Toronto FC 4-2 in MLS season opener

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — CF Montreal, carving open Toronto FC’s defence, cruised… Continue reading

Demonstrators using umbrellas as shields approach a point in a perimeter security fence during a protest over the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright during traffic stop, outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department, Friday, April 16, 2021, in Brooklyn Center, Minn. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Journalists allege police harassment at Minnesota protests

Some journalists covering protests over the police fatal shooting of Daunte Wright,… Continue reading

A container ship is docked in the Port of Montreal, Wednesday, February 17, 2021 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Montreal dockworkers begin weekend strikes as talks drag on

MONTREAL — Dockworkers at the Port of Montreal kicked off a series… Continue reading

Brad Dahr, 53, is facing numerous charges. (Photo contributed by Alberta RCMP)
Alberta man charged for alleged sexual offences against children

An Edmonton man has been charged for alleged sexual offences against children… Continue reading

A person walks past a COVID-19 mural designed by artist Emily May Rose on a rainy day during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, April 12, 2021. Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off the job or coming into work while knowingly sick could warrant discipline in the workplace. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Risky pandemic behaviour off the clock could mean workplace discipline: lawyers

CALGARY — Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off… Continue reading

Vials containing Russia's Sputnik V vaccine for COVID-19 are seen at the San Marino State Hospital, in San Marino, Friday, April 9, 2021.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Antonio Calanni
China, Russia using their COVID-19 vaccines to gain political influence

OTTAWA — China and Russia have been using their locally produced COVID-19… Continue reading

Most Read