Slow start proves costly to Rebels in 7-5 loss to Ice
Ice 7 Rebels 5
WINNIPEG — A strong third period helped ease some of the pain of the Red Deer Rebels’ performance over the first 40 minutes Sunday afternoon at the Wayne Fleming Arena.
The Rebels pushed back from a five-goal deficit to make matters somewhat interesting, but eventually fell 7-5 to the Winnipeg Ice in a WHL contest viewed by 1,621 fans.
“It was obviously a frustrating start,” said Rebels head coach Steve Konowalchuk, whose squad trailed 4-1 after 20 minutes and were down 6-1 just past the midway point of the second period.
“A frustrating start and then I think our guys got rattled a bit. It took us until the third period to put it behind us and reset. I thought our players did good in the third period and just tried to get back to the way we need to play.
“We almost made it interesting.”
The Ice jumped into a 2-0 lead on goals by Zach Benson and Mikey Milne just 15 seconds part midway through the opening period.
The Rebels, on the power play, countered in short order when Liam Keeler finished a tic-tac-toe play with Jayden Grubbe, but Jakin Smallwood cashed a rebound during an Ice power play and Benson connected late in the period with a shot from the edge of the right circle.
Rebels starting netminder Connor Ungar stopped eight of the 12 shots he faced in the opening frame and was replaced by Chase Coward, who turned aside 18 of 20 shots over the final 40 minutes.
“I thought it was time to just have a different look and get some emotion,” said Konowalchuk of the goaltender switch. “We didn’t have that in the first period.”
It didn’t work right away as Milne potted his second of the game off a feed from Connor Geekie to make it 5-1 and defenceman Ben Zloty scored from the low slot with the Ice on the power play.
Arshdeep Bains closed the gap to 6-2 when he tipped home a shot from Blake Stevenson with the Rebels enjoying a late second period man advantage and the visitors carried that momentum into the third.
Carter Anderson took advantage of a turnover in the Ice end early in the final stanza and from the high slot beat goalie Gage Alexander to the glove side, and 12 minutes later Stevenson cashed a power play rebound to bring to the Rebels to within two.
Konowalchuk pulled Coward in favour of an extra attacker with three minutes left and Ice defenceman Carson Lambos all but sealed the deal with a 200-foot empty-net marker a minute later.
Rebels rookie rearguard Matteo Fabrizi notched his first ever WHL goal in the final minute to close out the scoring.
“The bottom line is I’m happy with our third period but disappointed with our first period, and in the second period there was a little bit of a learning curve,” said Konowalchuk. “You have to have shorter memories and not dwell on what just happened and get playing a little sooner than we did.”
The Rebels return to action on their six-game road trip when they face the Warriors Tuesday in Moose Jaw and will carry at least a measure of momentum into the contest.
“It makes it better than we played that way in third going into the next game,” said Konowalchuk. “Sometimes it can be a carry-over and we want to make sure we carry that into the next game.”
Notable: The Rebels were impressive on the power play, going three-for-eight. The Ice were two-for-four with a man advantage . . . Forward Kalan Lind returned to the Rebels lineup after serving a one-game suspension for being assessed a kneeing major and game misconduct in Thursday’s 4-1 loss in Winnipeg. The 16-year-old took on Zloty in a second-period scrap and fared well against the 19-year-old . . . Grubbe and Lambos hooked up in a third-period fight with the Rebels captain scoring a late knockdown . . . The three stars: (1) Benson, (2) Milne and (3) Stevenson . . . Alexander made 20 saves . . . Following Tuesday’s stop on Moose Jaw, the Rebels will face the Regina Pats Wednesday and the Prince Albert Raiders two nights later before returning home.