For the second time this season the Red Deer Rebels have dropped three straight games. It came at the hands of the Calgary Hitmen, a team the Rebels had handled well this season. Heading into the night, Red Deer sported a 6-1-0-0 record against their division rivals and held a four point lead on them in the central division battle.
Despite being out shot in the first period, it was the Rebels who jumped on the scoreboard first.
On a power play, that has lacked power of late, Dawson Barteaux scored his sixth goal of the season with a blast from the point. Hitmen goaltender Jack McNaughton couldn’t see the puck as it sailed beyond him. The Rebels finally scored on the power play after going 0-for-17 over their last four plus games.
With Jeff de Wit in the penalty box on a too-many men call, the Hitmen capitalized with some nifty passing between Layne Toder, Kaden Edler and the eventual goal scorer Mark Kastelic.
Head coach Brent Sutter was not pleased with that penalty in particular, “Tonight you look at the goals we gave up it’s just stupid hockey but it comes from stupid penalties. Too-many men penalty on the ice when you come to the bench and you turn to go back on a play when a guy is going on for you.”
Five minutes later, Calgary made it 2-1 and the air was sucked out of the building.
Centreman Carson Focht picked up a loose puck in the slot area to the right of Fancy and his wrist shot hit the back of the net. His 15th goal of the year would prove to be the eventual game winner.
1:18 later a shot off the backboards from Devan Klassen came right in front to Kastelic and he tapped the puck back to Elder who made it 3-1 Hitmen.
With six minutes to play in the period, the Rebels got themselves into penalty trouble. First de Wit was sent off for a cross-check.
Just six seconds later, Josh Tarzwell shot the puck over the glass to give the Hitmen 1:54 of 5-on-3 power play time. With 33 seconds remaining in the first penalty the Hitmen scored to make it 4-1. Kastelic’s second of the night had Sutter upset again.
“You shoot the puck in the stands when you have 85-feet across the rink and 200-feet to shoot it down, you shoot it in the stands. It’s just not smart hockey, you aren’t thinking the game the right way.”
Mercifully the second period drew to a close, the Hitmen having scored four goals to the Rebels goose egg.
The third period saw the Hitmen mostly just holding onto the puck and making the Rebels work extra hard to gain any traction. There would be none, and the Hitmen went on to extend their lead to four goals.
With the teams at 4-on-4 the Hitmen extended their lead when James Malm scored on a wide open net following a pass from Riley Stotts across the crease. The fifth Hitmen goal was the last for the two teams as the final was 5-1.
When asked about the team’s play Sutter surmised, “The two goals we give up even strength, lack of coverage in your own zone, things we work on every single day in practice. From a coach’s standpoint that is what we get all frustrated and upset about because you are working this stuff all day long every day. We just aren’t getting the response, mentally they are not where they need to be these kids and I guess we gotta get back to the real world and do some stuff that real people need to do and getting up early in the mornings and go to work.”
Following the game, Sutter had this to add about the play of his charges over their recent string of play. “Well it’s really just a reflection of the way the last two-three weeks have been. Its stupid hockey, undisciplined hockey, lazy hockey.”
“You look at the last three games we have given up 15 goals against. An average of five per game, you don’t win games like that,” continued Sutter.
“We’ve worked on an awful lot, practices and stuff like that but we don’t seem to be implementing it in games. The bottom line is the best players outside of Brandon Hagel, our best players aren’t our best players. And you don’t win like that, our 18, 19, 20-year old players aren’t good enough. And aren’t playing well enough, aren’t playing hard enough and it’s killing us. Our 18-year-olds, these guys gotta be better, they are veteran guys in this league and we expect a lot more from them and they should be expecting a lot more from each other. We are not getting it right now and its hurting us big time.”
There was some praise to be had despite the gloom and doom of recent weeks.
“Our young kids have been fine, I have actually been happy with how our young guys have been playing.” said Sutter.
Rebel Yell… The three stars of the night were Kastelic, Elder and McNaughton. Reese Johnson was 19-of-28 in the faceoff circle to lead both teams. Carson Focht had 7 shots to lead the Hitmen while Hagel led the Rebels with 4. Just 5:36 into the game, Jeff de Wit fought Dakota Krebs, de Wit scored a knockout punch that sent Krebs to the dressing room, he did not return. No update was available on his condition. The next Rebels action is slated for Friday February 8th at 7pm when the team hosts the Regina Pats.