Rebels’ Backs To The Wall
For the Red Deer Rebels, there will be a tomorrow regardless of the outcome in Friday’s Western Hockey League Eastern Conference playoff game in Brandon.
The Rebels know they’ll be playing in late May as the Memorial Cup hosts. But unless they defeat the Wheat Kings Friday, there will be no tomorrow in regards to their hopes of winning a WHL championship.
Following Wednesday’s 4-2 home-ice loss to the Wheaties, the Rebels find themselves down 3-1 in the best-of-seven conference final. Suddenly, there is no further room for error.
“I think it’s pretty defined now,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “We have to win or we’ll sit around for awhile and be practising twice a day until the Memorial Cup (which starts May 20).”
The Rebels dropped two tight games in Brandon to open the series, prevailed 6-2 at the Centrium Tuesday then came up short in a crucial Game 4 that has their league title hopes hanging by a thread.
“Our backs are against the wall,” said Sutter. “To some degree we put ourselves in this spot by having leads in both games in Brandon and not bearing down in the last seven to eight minutes and blowing the leads.
“We responded well in Game 3 and then Wednesday we didn’t respond well to being down 2-1 in the series.”
And now . . .
“We have to regroup,” said the Rebels boss, “and with our backs against the wall there’s only one way to play, and that’s all out . . . treat it like it’s a Game 7.
“It’s a do-or-die situation for us so hopefully our response will be what we need to have, but we’ll have to wait and see come Friday.”
Rebels forward Jake DeBrusk insisted the players are all in, but knocking off the Wheat Kings on their home ice will be easier said than done.
“They’re really tough to play against. They’re similar to us in how deep they are up front and their defence is among the best in the league, especially with (Ivan) Provorov back there,” said DeBrusk.
“They’re a tough team, they know how to win. They went to the (league) final last year and they’re bearing down right now.”
If the Rebels prevail Friday, a sixth game will be played Sunday at the Centrium. A seventh contest, if required, will go two nights later in Brandon.
The eventual winner will face the Western Conference champion Seattle Thunderbirds in the league final.