Rebels sluggish in 4-1 loss to host Hitmen
Photo by Jenn Pierce/Calgary Hitmen
Hitmen 4 Rebels 1
CALGARY — If the Red Deer Rebels were an ice cream flavour Wednesday evening, that flavour would be vanilla.
The Rebels were lacking in imagination, passion and intensity almost from the opening faceoff and dropped a 4-1 Western Hockey League decision to the Calgary Hitmen before 5,374 fans at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
“We just didn’t play with any emotion here tonight,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “We never had any jump in our game, we never got engaged. It was just a blah game.
“It all starts with preparation and focus and through and through we had a lot of guys not play well.”
By a ‘lot’, Sutter was referring to the vast majority of the team, from the front-end players to the lesser-minute skaters.
“When everybody has roles on the team they have to play their roles to the best of their ability,” said Sutter. “It wasn’t just our top players tonight, our other players were just as bad.
“I thought our top four defencemen tonight weren’t as good as they’ve been playing. You can’t play like that and have success.”
Jake Kryski gave the Hitmen a lead they would never relinquish when he notched a gift goal 5:44 into the contest. Rebels rearguard Brandon Schuldhaus attempted a reverse pass behind the Red Deer net, but the puck struck the side of the goal, settled in the crease and Kryski knocked it past netminder Lasse Petersen.
Eight minutes later, Matteo Gennaro potted his first of three goals on the evening, connecting on a two-on-one break following a pass from Beck Malenstyn.
Gennaro upped the count to 3-0 with a power-play goal late in the middle stanza, his shot from the left faceoff circle beating Petersen.
Lane Zablocki finally got the Rebels on the board early in the final frame, one-timing a centering pass from Michael Spacek by Hitmen and former Rebels goaltender Trevor Martin.
But just a little over four minutes later Gennaro completed his hat trick when his volley from the high slot found the mesh through traffic.
Martin and Petersen each finished with 22 saves. Petersen made a couple of impressive stops during a second-period Calgary power play and Martin denied Spacek on a short-handed breakaway, but otherwise had an easy night.
“We’re in the second half of the season now, with 20 some games remaining,” said Sutter. “You have to push now, you can’t pick and choose the games, the periods and the shifts you want to play well in.
“You have to be all dialled in now. I didn’t like our focus the whole night. I thought we took bad penalties and we were terrible defending. We just stood around and watched.
“We just weren’t good. The bottom line is we got what we deserved.”
Sutter gave props to overage forward Evan Polei and liked the third-period performance of the Polei-Adam Musil-Austin Glover line.
But otherwise, passing grades were not forthcoming.
“Our bottom six forwards, which is a lot of young guys . . . I didn’t like a lot of their games,” said the Rebels boss. “Guys like (Dawson) Martin, (Austin) Pratt, (Matthew) Campese, (Jordan) Roy and (Cam) Hausinger . . . they have to be better than that.
“Until you truly really hate losing, you’re never going to sacrifice to win. And that’s what we’re trying to teach a lot of these guys. They are younger guys and winning has probably never meant that much to them.
“But you have to continue to work with them and we need the older guys to help the coaching staff do that.”
Just notes: Zablocki and Pratt are listed in the Central Scouting midterm rankings. Zablocki is ranked 70th among North American skaters eligible for this year’s NHL entry draft, while Pratt is 83rd . . . The Rebels return to action Friday against the visiting Prince Albert Raiders, then host the Victoria Royals Saturday.