Rebels fall to Wheat Kings despite dominating for two periods
Wheat Kings 5 Rebels 2
BRANDON — The final score was no indication, but the Brandon Wheat Kings likely had no business prevailing in Friday’s WHL meeting with the visiting Red Deer Rebels.
Unfortunately for the Rebels, the hosts made it their business.
Outplayed for at least two-thirds of the Remembrance Day contest and outshot 34-25 overall, the Wheat Kings nevertheless recorded a 5-2 victory in front of 5,024 fans at Westman Place.
Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter blamed the setback on careless mistakes and spotty goaltending.
And, once again, an early deficit.
“It’s disappointing. In three of our last six games we’ve been behind the eight-ball so early in the game,” said Sutter, who watched the Wheaties connect on each of their first three shots.
“It happened at home against Medicine Hat when we gave up three goals on four shots and in Everett we gave up two goals on two shots in the first two minutes.”
And on Friday Rebels starter Riley Lamb surrendered two goals on two shots before being replaced by Lasse Petersen 6:44 into the contest.
“It’s an upward battle when you get down early. Right now our goalies are fighting it and both guys can be better than they’ve been playing,” said Sutter. “The biggest thing is their starts. They haven’t been sharp and its hurt us.”
Lamb had no chance on the game’s first goal at 4:45 of the opening period, with Tyler Coulter redirecting Reid Duke’s shot from the high slot past the Rebels goaltender, who was totally screened on the play.
But the rookie keeper was slow to react on a short-handed four-on-two break by the Wheat Kings two minutes later. Defenceman Kale Clague pulled the trigger to cap a nifty three-way passing play.
Petersen entered the game at that point and after Dawson Martin got the Rebels back into the game with his third of the season at 8:29 — on a power-play wrist shot from the top of the right faceoff circle — he surrendered a power-play goal to Ty Lewis on the first puck he faced.
“We’re fighting it as a team right now,” said Sutter, whose squad has dropped five of their last six outings. “Our goalies have to be our backbone and make saves, but instead they’re struggling and that just compounds the situation.”
After outshooting their hosts 17-7 through the first 20 minutes, the Rebels carried the play through the second period and pulled to within one during a power play. Michael Spacek took a point feed from Colton Bobyk and beat Wheat Kings goalie Jordan Papirny with a wrist shot from the edge of the faceoff circle.
However, any momentum Red Deer carried into the final frame was snuffed out when the Wheat Kings made it a 4-2 game just 58 seconds in. Rebels defenceman Jared Freadrich had his point shot blocked at the Brandon blueline and Lewis scored his second goal of the game on an odd-man rush.
“So many teams block shots well, so you can’t shoot pucks right on the ice. Pucks have to be off the ice,” said Sutter. “Freddy didn’t get the shot up, they blocked it and created a four-on-two.
“We needed to have a push in the first 10 minutes of the third and we didn’t get it.”
Instead, Stelio Mattheos sealed the deal when he scored from a scramble at 13:10.
“We were the better team for two periods, but made bone-headed mistakes,” said Sutter. “We were playing well, but let it get away on us.”
The Rebels boss insisted his team needs more from not just the goaltenders, but many of the veteran, prime-time skaters.
“Your best players have to be your best players and ours have not been, he said. “Our goaltenders have to be better, too, although for the most part I’ve been pretty happy with our defence.”
Petersen stopped 21 of the 24 shots he faced, while Papirny finished with 32 saves.
The Rebels were minus the services of rookie Russian defenceman Alex Alexeyev and veteran forward Grayson Pawlenchuk, and both were sorely missed. “Alex is one of our top defencemen. Even though he’s still a young guy he plays against some of the other team’s top players,” said Sutter. “And Pawly was playing on our first line.”
Alexeyev is listed as week-to-week with an upper-body injury while Pawlenchuk could be out four to six weeks with a high ankle sprain.
The Rebels continue their four-game road trip with a Saturday engagement with the Moose Jaw Warriors. Red Deer is in Regina Sunday and plays Tuesday at Swift Current.
The Rebels’ next home game is next Friday versus the Medicine Hat Tigers.
Just notes: Those in charge of moving top-end players in eye-opening — and somewhat shocking — trades are often tight-lipped as to the reasons why such transactions take place. Such was not the case this week when Lethbridge Hurricanes GM Peter Anholt dealt star forward — and former Rebels prospect — Brayden Burke, 19, to the Moose Jaw Warriors in return for promising 18-year-old winger Ryan Bowen, a second-round pick in the 2017 WHL bantam draft and a conditional pick. Anholt made it clear that Burke was moved out because he was an exasperating presence. “He was distracted a lot from day one. He wasn’t great at (training camp). I just really sensed that he was a distraction to our team in a lot of ways,” Anholt told Global TV Lethbridge. Anholt made it clear that Burke, who last season collected 109 points — including a league-high 82 assists — and attended the Calgary Flames camp in September, was given plenty of opportunities to continue to perform in a ‘Canes jersey. “We want players to understand, we will give you every opportunity you can have to be a player here, within reason,” said Anholt. “In his case he took it for granted and abused it. So it’s time to move on.” Burke was leading the ‘Canes in scoring with four goals and 19 assists in 15 games at the time of his departure, but Anholt had to look past Burke’s production. “I gave him a great coaching staff to work with and enable him to put up over 100 points last year with a real good team,” said the GM. “You give a guy lots of opportunities, lots of breaks, and in the end they kind of stick it to you.” Asked if he expects Burke to flourish with the Warriors, Anholt replied: “I don’t care. He’s a Moose Jaw Warrior now. I don’t care.”