Rebels blow a two-goal lead and fall 5-2 to Warriors
Warriors 5 Rebels 2
The Red Deer Rebels must have thought it was dessert night Saturday at the Centrium with the way they were serving up turnovers.
The Rebels were up 2-0 late in the opening period, but started coughing up the puck on a regular basis and watched the speedy Moose Jaw Warriors roar back and secure a 5-2 WHL win before 4,671 fans.
“We just didn’t play well after the first 15 minutes,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “They’re a really good hockey team and if you let them play their game and don’t get engaged in the game it’s hard to play.
“We chased the game after the first 15 minutes.”
The hosts got a game-opening power-play goal from Brandon Hagel, who tipped Colton Bobyk’s point shot past Warriors netminder Zach Sawchenko 9:45 into the contest.
Red Deer struck for a second man-advantage marker at 15:12 as Josh Mahura, from the top of the right faceoff circle, connected with a rising slapshot.
But that was it for the Rebels, who surrendered a pair of goals 52 seconds apart prior to the first intermission. Jayden Halbgewachs potted his 18th of the season — a power-play tally — following a turnover in the Red Deer end, and Brett Howden cashed a rebound while left alone at the side of the net.
“We made two bad mistakes that cost us the first two goals against and we never recovered after that,” said Sutter. “It just seemed to snowball from there and we never had a lot of emotion, a lot of intensity, and it showed in our play.
“When you play like that you make mistakes and a lot of one-on-one hockey, a lot of selfishness, gets involved and then you don’t accomplish anything.”
Indeed, several of the giveaways were committed by the forwards in the offensive zone, resulting in odd-man breaks for the visitors.
Defenceman Jett Woo notched the eventual winner — another power-play goal — at 16:16 of the middle frame when he whipped home a loose puck in the low slot. Halbgewachs then notched his second goal of the evening on a two-on-one break at 17:21, mere seconds after Hagel cranked a shot off the post.
Sutter replaced starting netminder Riley Lamb with Lasse Petersen at the start of the third period, but the switch did nothing to change the momentum.
“Lamber was fine, I was just trying to shake things up, trying to get some energy in the group and get a response from it,” said Sutter. “But we didn’t get that and for me, from a coach’s perspective, that was disappointing.
“There are nights (when a switch) has nothing to do with the goaltender, you’re just trying to do what you think is right for the team. I just thought we needed some energy and some emotion, but we didn’t get any response from it at all.”
The Warriors, in fact, closed out the scoring with their third man-advantage marker of the game, Nikita Popugaev snapping a one-timer past Petersen from the left circle after taking a cross-ice pass from Brayden Burke. Petersen got a piece of the shot, but the puck trickled just over the goal line with 1:47 showing on the clock.
“It was a disappointing game tonight,” said Sutter. “It was our fourth game in five nights, we’ve had some tough travel. With that you still need a work ethic, and like I told the players, your security blanket is your system and your structure and when that disappears . . . there’s no reason for it.
“That’s just a lack of desire and not doing the things you need to do. Just stick with it and maybe something will come out of it, but tonight it just snowballed and got worse.”
Lamb stopped 26 of the 30 shots he faced, while Petersen blocked 12 of 13 in the final period, several of which were of the difficult variety.
Sawchenko made 28 saves for the winners, including a second-period breakaway stop on Evan Polei.
The Rebels are idle until Wednesday, when they host the Saskatoon Blades. Red Deer then engages the Lethbridge Hurricanes in a home-and-home set, Friday on the road and Saturday at the Centrium.