Sutter displeased with team’s mindset in loss to Pats
Pats 8 Rebels 4
REGINA — The excuses were built in, and they were justified.
The Red Deer Rebels were playing their third WHL game in three nights and the Regina Pats, the No. 1 ranked team in the nation without a regulation-time loss, hadn’t competed since Thursday.
The end result, therefore, was predictable, as the Pats dominated the first 40 minutes and posted an 8-4 win over the Rebels while outshooting their guests 61-21 Sunday in front of 6,484 fans at the Brandt Centre.
Regardless of the circumstances, Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter wasn’t blaming fatigue or his team’s schedule for the setback.
“We didn’t play very well at all here tonight. We made a lot of mistakes, a lot of turnovers,” said Sutter. “I didn’t think our work ethic was where it needed to be.”
While Sutter gave the well-rested Pats credit, he saw too many negatives in the Rebels performance, factors which have been plaguing the team the last little while.
“What bothers me is the fact we’re not taking enough pride in our defensive zone. As individuals we’re not taking enough pride in not wanting to be scored against,” he said.
“It’s just the little things. We’re not blocking as many shots as we need to block, for example. We’ve given up 20 goals on this (Eastern Conference) road trip, and that’s ridiculous.”
The Rebels opened the scoring Sunday when Austin Pratt redirected a flip shot from Colton Bobyk past Pats netminder Tyler Brown at 9:35 of the first period.
But the hosts evened the count exactly seven minutes later as defenceman Chase Harrison took a perfect feed from Sam Steel and scored from the high slot, and Adam Brooks cashed his own rebound with .02 seconds remaining in the period.
The Rebels — outshot 21-7 through the first 20 minutes — never recovered. Filip Ahl, with two goals, Connor Hobbs and Steel connected for the Pats in the second period, while Carson Sass, with a slapshot from the high slot, responded for the Rebels.
Down 6-2 after two periods, the Rebels pulled to within two with a pair of third-period tallies — Jeff de Wit converting a cross-crease pass from Adam Musil and Brandon Hagel scoring a similar goal on a feed from Michael Spacek — but the Pats responded with goals from Hobbs and Jake Leschyshyn in the final five minutes.
“We have some guys who are fighting the game, and when you do that there’s an attitude problem. Players start thinking selfishly . . . about goals and assists,” said Sutter.
“Our defencemen are cheating wanting to be part of the offence when the puck is still in our zone. We have the puck and our high guy is cheating for offence.
“It’s been an accumulation of things and it feels like we’re back at ground zero . . . like we’re starting over again now.”
In recent games, Sutter has faulted his goaltenders for not giving the team a chance to succeed, but Lasse Petersen was stellar Sunday while making 53 saves.
“Petey was good tonight and yet there were eight goals scored on him,” said Sutter. “There are areas outside of our goaltenders that need to be corrected. Outside of one goal tonight, you can’t fault our goalie.”
Sutter is adamant that his players have to mend their mindset.
“Right now it’s feeling sorry for yourself and not thinking about what your security blanket is within the group, and that’s your team game,” he said.
“Right now we have an attitude problem with that, and that’s with some of the older guys. That’s what’s concerning to me, that we have a group of older players trying to decide that ‘do I play the way the coaches want me to play or do I want to play my way because it’s best for me’.
“At the end of the day it’s going to hurt you as a player.”
Sutter insisted he wasn’t slamming his players as individuals.
“Their intentions are good, they don’t mean to be that way,” he said. “They’re great kids, they’re awesome. But when you’re not winning as much as you’d like you often don’t deal with things the right way and everything can go south.”
Sutter praised de Wit and Musil — players who had been buried in an offensive slump before both scored in each of the last two games — as examples of skaters who have either bought into or stuck with the system.
“We need our older guys to think the game the right way,” said the Rebels boss. “Musil and de Wit have been our best forwards the last two games. They’re playing a better team game and their offence is coming from that.”
The Rebels close out their current four-game Eastern Conference trip Tuesday versus the Swift Current Broncos, then host the Medicine Hat Tigers Friday.