“Unfortunately we came out on the wrong end of the stick tonight,” the opening line from a long media scrum by Head Coach Brent Sutter following tonight’s game.
It was a pretty candid view of his team’s performance following a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Moose Jaw Warriors.
What made it more disappointing for the 3717 Rebels faithful was that it was Toque and Mitt Toss Night at the Enmax Centrium.
Byron Fancy made his sixth start between the pipes for this tilt Moose Jaw countered with Adam Evanoff who was making his fourth straight start.
For Red Deer, it was the fourth game in five nights.
Like it was for much of the hockey game, the first seven minutes of hockey was played at a slow pace. Neither team looked inspired to play, or to make the first mistake.
Unfortunately for the Rebels, they were the first to make one.
Tristin Langan pounced on a weak pass from Justin Almedia in the corner. He also made a weak pass to the point and none of the Rebels players could make a play on it. The puck hopped to Daemon Hunt and his point shot fooled everyone including Fancy and the visitors were up 1-0 just over seven minutes in.
The toques came out just 39 seconds after the Moose Jaw goal as Brandon Hagel chopped at a loose puck in the slot and it made it beyond a partially screened Evanoff.
The clean up was quick and the teams were right back at it.
With the goal Brandon Hagel moved into a tie for third all time on the Rebels point scoring list.
Head Coach Brent Sutter was mixing and matching the lines early as he had only dressed 11 forwards, he found success when Chris Douglas and Zak Smith made a charge up the ice.
Douglas was able to draw the Moose Jaw defenders to his side of the ice and got a pass over to the streaking Smith. Before he was at the top of the crease Smith stretched out his stick to redirect the pass behind Evanoff. Smith’s sixth of the season gave the Rebels a 2-1 lead before the end of the first period.
It was the most inspiring stretch of hockey the team played all night. The period ended with the Rebels hanging on to a one goal lead despite being badly outshot, 16-7.
It would not take long for Moose Jaw’s inspired play to draw them even with Red Deer.
Less than two minutes into the second period, the puck was behind the goal line in the Rebels’ end. Brayden Tracey drew attention from three Rebels players and they were caught watching the puck. It allowed Tate Popple to slide into the slot area to receive a perfect pass from Langan and riffle a shot by Fancy.
A little more than two and a half minutes later Moose Jaw would strike again.
With no one covering the point, Justin Almedia received a pass and from Tristan Langan and his shot hit Fancy and pinged off the crossbar. The rebound landed right in front of Jett Woo and he potted his fourth goal of the season. And just like that the Warriors led 3-2.
“We were obviously out played, what else do you say. Right from our top players right through, our top players we not good tonight. We just didn’t push at all we got out worked and out played.”
That sentiment showed on the shot clock as well as the score following 40 minutes. Moose Jaw had 34 shots to Red Deer’s 12, and it was now 3-2 Moose Jaw.
In what was possibly the most uninspired act of this three act play, the Rebels could not generate any offense.
Moose Jaw out shot Red Deer 12-6 in the last 20 minutes and looked like a team hungry for a win. Even with the extra attacker in the final moments, the team could bare keep the puck in the Moose Jaw half of the ice.
Moose Jaw on the other hand looked like a team that had won seven games in a row before tonight’s action.
“Let’s not take anything away from their team,” said Sutter. “They played extremely well, but they have all year. That’s why they only have five (regulation) losses. They play a really good team game, they’re on the right side of pucks all the time. They don’t give up odd-man rushes, they keep the game simple, they support each other well, everything we stress with our team to do, but you have to want to do it. It’s strictly about team play.”
Rebels rookie netminder Fancy was the night’s second star and for good reason, he made 43 saves in the loss and Sutter also thought he as the best player on the ice for the team clad in red, “I thought our goalie played pretty well, he played solid, he held the fort for us because we made a lot of turnovers. We were not protecting pucks.”
The Rebels don’t have much time to dwell on this game. The turn around quickly and head to Lethbridge for a early evening 6pm start at the Enmax Centre. Both teams will be playing in the final game of a three-in-three.
Rebel Yell… The three stars were Tristin Langan, Byron Fancy and Tate Popple. Moose Jaw did not take a penalty in this game, their league low penalty minutes per game now sits at just 7.3. Red Deer was 3-for-3 on the penalty kill. Another area the Rebels did do well in was in the face off dot, winning 33-of-50. As is usually the case, captain Reese Johnson was the best Rebel in that category, he was 15-of-18.