Tigers 4 Rebels 2
Through 17 games in the shortened WHL season, this may sound like a broken record.
The Red Deer Rebels lost their 10th game in a row, and special teams were the difference.
Red Deer failed to score on nine power-play chances and their opponent, the Medicine Hat Tigers, who was off for the last 11 days because of potential COVID-19 exposure, scored three times on five advantages.
There wasn’t a lot of five-on-five play Friday night in Medicine Hat and with that, there weren’t many opportunities to capture momentum unless you were wearing a black and orange uniform.
Even if the first half of the game belonged to the Rebels, it was the home side that took over in the second half and scored four straight goals on the way to the 4-2 win.
“It was the same story. Five-on-five we were really good and outplayed them for large stretches. Special teams let us down again,” said Rebels assistant coach Ryan Colville.
“We had plenty of opportunities on the power that we didn’t capitalize on and they scored three power-play goals. We just have to keep working away at our special teams and get that fixed because five-on-five we’re right there with them.”
The Rebels had five straight power plays late in the first and in the early minutes of the second but didn’t capitalize until the fifth advantage expired.
Ben King curled in from the top of the circle and ripped a wrist shot through a crowd past Garin Bjorklund for his second goal of the game. With the two-goal night, King has nine points over a five-game point streak, with four goals and five assists in that span.
Medicine Hat cut the deficit on a power play of their own when Carson Hopwo deposited his seventh goal in as many games.
Brett Kemp evened the score for the Tigers with their second power-play tally of the night.
Just 33 seconds later, Eric Van Impe buried off the rush and that sunk the Rebels.
Hopwo added his second of the evening late in the third.
Red Deer was outshot 18-6 in the final frame and was unable to mount a comeback.
The Rebels power play is operating at just 15 per cent this season, with 12 goals on 80 chances. Much of those struggles come in the absence of sniper Jayden Grubbe, as well as veteran Jayden Grubbe.
Their penalty kill is at 63 per cent for the year, allowing 29 goals on 79 opportunities. Four of their defencemen that kill penalties have missed multiple games this season.
“We’re trying younger guys on the power play a little bit on with our penalty kill, we have defencemen who haven’t been in the lineup a lot. We’ve had some bodies in and out of the lineup, which makes it harder to get a little bit of a rhythm going on special teams,” Colville said.
“Even with Grubbe and Tarzwell that are usually on the power play and they aren’t right now. Younger guys are getting the opportunity and we just gotta keep working on it with them.”
Ethan Anders stopped 33 shots in the loss and Bjorklund made 23 saves in the win.
The Rebels will host the Tigers Saturday night and be back in Medicine Hat to round out the series on Monday.