Rebels blow late lead, lose shootout decision to Tigers
Tigers 4 Rebels 3 (SO)
These aren’t your uncle’s Medicine Hat Tigers.
Tell that to the Red Deer Rebels.
The Rebels’ WHL Central Division nemesis over the years, the Tigers came into Saturday’s contest at the Peavey Mart Centrium as decided underdogs, with just four wins to their credit.
But one of those wins was over the Rebels – 4-2 Oct. 8 at the Centrium — and the visitors made it two-for-two against Red Deer this season with a 4-3 shootout win before 3,199 fans.
The Rebels were up 3-2 with about two minutes left in regulation time when a questionable icing call put the play back in the Red Deer end. Two faceoffs later and with Tigers goalie Garin Bjorklund on the bench, Noah Danielson put the puck towards the net and it was tipped home by Ashton Ferster.
The linesman called icing despite the fact Tigers defenceman Daniel Baker stopped skating on what was going to be a close call and the whistle sounded before the puck crossed the line.
“It’s supposed to get to the red line. We were in position to win the game and you would like that call not to happen,” said Rebels head coach Steve Konowalchuk. “We were in position to win but we didn’t. We’ll regroup, take the good things we did and built off that.”
The overtime frame was scoreless despite some excellent opportunities — and equally excellent goaltending — by both teams.
Red Deer was zero-for-three in the shootout as Arshdeep Bains was stopped by Bjorklund and Ben King and Liam Keeler both shot wide. Danielson shot over the net as the Tigers’ first shooter but Lukas Svejkovsky scored as the next man up.
The Tigers led 1-0 after one period on a power play goal by Oren Shtrom, who fired a one-timer past netminder Chase Coward after taking a rink-wide feed from Oasiz Wiesblatt.
Defenceman Jace Weir pulled the Rebels even midway through the second period when his high shot from the point appeared to be heading over the net. Instead, Bjorklund played the puck and had it bounce off his blocker and in.
Then, late in the period, Rebels forward Dallon Melin raced out of the penalty box, took a stretch pass from Blake Stevenson and scored on a breakaway, beating Bjorklund high to the stick side.
“That’s kind of what you dream of, coming out of the penalty box like that,” said Melin. “I was nervous during the penalty kill, but the boys bailed me out and then set me up on the breakaway. It was a pretty good play.”
It was not only Melin’s second goal of the season, but his second in as many nights.
“I feel I was snake-bit for a while. I was getting chances, it’s just good to see them go in the net,” he said. “I can’t really focus on scoring all the time, I just have to keep playing hard and then the goals will keep coming, hopefully.”
Shtrom potted his second of the night at the 11-minute mark of the third period, cashing a rebound after Wiesblatt had a partial breakaway and was denied by Coward.
But Bains replied for the home side just 70 seconds later, breaking to the net and slamming a corner pass from King past Bjorklund.
The Rebels, though, couldn’t hold the lead.
In the end, a slow start was partly to blame for the game going down to the wire.
“We had a slower start than we would like, but I thought we persevered and played a pretty good second and third period to give ourselves a chance to win,” said Konowalchuk.
“I didn’t think we gave them a whole lot and we were in position to win the game, but just didn’t quite close it out.
“There was some good hockey when we got going in the second and third and we could have scored a couple more goals. But you win some in overtime, you lose some in the shootout. We’re a little frustrated with the loss but we did some good things in the last two periods.”
Melin agreed with the Rebels’ bench boss.
“We came out a little slow but our second and third were pretty good, then you get scored on late in the game,” he said. “Stuff like that happens and then it’s anyone’s game. It could have gone either way.”
Notable: Bjorklund finished with 32 saves, including an overtime breakaway stop on Kalan Lind, while Coward turned aside 25 shots. Both goaltenders were sharp throughout the contest, and especially in extra time . . . The Tigers were one-for-four on the power play, while the Rebels came up empty on three man-advantage opportunities, including a five-minute kneeing major — and ensuing game misconduct — to Luke Rybinski . . . The three stars: (1) Melin, (2) Shtrom, and (3) Weir . . . Bains (1g,1a) and Christoffer Sedoff (2a) each had two points for the Rebels, who return to action Wednesday against the visiting Swift Current Broncos.