Rebels lose third in a row despite late rally
Royals 6 Rebels 4
VICTORIA — It was indeed an impressive rally.
Unfortunately for the Red Deer Rebels, it was all for naught.
Down 4-2 to the Victoria Royals in a WHL contest Tuesday viewed by 3,032 fans at Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena, the Rebels struck for a pair of late third-period goals under two minutes apart to pull even with their hosts.
But shortly after, Red Deer defenceman Austin Strand — who otherwise had a solid game and chipped in with two assists — had his point shot blocked and Royals forward Ryan Peckford headed off on a two-on-one break.
Peckford held on to the puck and beat Rebels netminder Riley Lamb with a high shot at 17:39, and Ethan Price notched an empty-net marker in the final minute to seal a 4-2 Victoria victory.
“You’re down 4-2 on the road and come back and tie it up. You have to get at least a point,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter.
“It was a bad play at the blueline. We shot it in and hit a shin pad, just after we had discussed on the bench about making sure there were no shin pad shots. It’s not smart hockey.”
The Rebels had more than enough chances to gain a positive result in the contest, firing 44 shots at Royals netminder Griffen Outhouse. Lamb, who surrendered six goals on 28 shots in a loss to the Lethbridge Hurricanes Saturday, made 31 saves.
“We weren’t great at defending, which is obvious when you give up six goals, and I didn’t think our goaltending was very good again tonight,” said Sutter.
“He’s really struggled in the last little but. He’s given up a lot of goals, some of them easy goals. We need saves.”
Sutter wasn’t enamoured with Lamb’s positioning on the winning goal. The netminder anticipated a pass on the odd-man break instead of the shot by Peckford.
“He stayed two feet off the post wanting to make the play coming across,” said Sutter. “Josh (Rebels defenceman Mahura) did everything right playing the two-on-one. His (Lamb’s) job was to make the save on the short side. That’s what a goalie does.”
The Royals opened the scoring eight minutes into the contest when Jared Dmytriw connected from the low slot, but the Rebels battled back and led 2-1 after one period on goals from Grayson Pawlenchuk and Dawson Martin.
Pawlenchuk beat Outhouse through a crowd with a rising shot from just inside the blueline, and Martin scored on a deflection of a point shot by Strand.
Matthew Phillips, however, made it a 2-2 game at the seven-minute mark of the second period when he took a rebound off the end boards and fired a quick volley past Lamb, and the hosts never trailed again.
Lamb made the save of the game on Ryan Gagnon during a two-on-one break just seconds before, but Sutter was unimpressed with the Phillips tally, replacing Lamb with Lasse Petersen for one 45-second shift.
“I pulled him to talk to him,” said the Rebels boss. “I just think that Lamber has been fighting it a lot. But he’s young and he’s still learning.
“Still, it’s not the saves you make, it’s the goals you give up . . . the type of goals. Goaltenders can’t take away the momentum of your hockey team by letting in an easy goal.”
A misplay at the Royals blueline resulted in Tyler Soy jumping on a bouncing puck, breaking in alone and slipping a backhand through Lamb’s pads late in the second period.
Dante Hannoun gave the Royals their first two-goal lead of the evening midway through the final frame, setting the stage for the Rebels’ late rally.
Mahura potted both of Red Deer’s third-period goals, finding the back of the net with a slapshot from the left faceoff circle at 13:39, and beating Outhouse from the right circle with a low wrist shot at 15:17.
The tying goal came on a power play. The Rebels were one-for-six with a man advantage and four-for-four on the penalty kill.
The loss was the Rebels third in a row after winning six in succession and dropped their record to 8-6-1-1. Red Deer is 2-5 on the road this season, with neither win coming in regulation time.
“In those seven games we’ve given up 32 goals,” said Sutter. “We need to be better. I’m not worried about the team scoring goals, it’s about defending the right way and doing things the right way.”
The Rebels continue the Western Conference portion of their extended road trip tonight with an engagement with the Everett Silvertips. The team will face the Spokane Chiefs Friday before returning home to prepare for a four-game jaunt into the East Division next week.
• Rebels defenceman Carson Sass flew to Saskatchewan Tuesday to attend his grandfather’s funeral. His spot was filled by Jacob Herauf, who was recalled from the Sherwood Park midget AAA Kings. . . Petersen will get the call tonight versus the Silvertips.