Rebels drop season opener to Oil Kings, but show positive signs
Oil Kings 4 Rebels 2
The Red Deer Rebels gave the favoured Edmonton Oil Kings all they could handle through at least half of the WHL regular season opener for both teams Saturday at the Centrium.
Unfortunately, the game got away from the hosts in the middle period of a 4-2 loss witnessed by 4,522 fans.
“I thought we had moments where we played well,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter.
Indeed they did, outshooting the Oil Kings 8-2 early and grabbing a 1-0 lead 11:26 into the contest on a rebound conversion by Dallon Melin.
But veteran Red Deer forward Cameron Hausinger was sent off for cross checking two minutes later and Scott Atkinson promptly notched his first of two goals on the evening with a one-timer from the right circle.
“It took us awhile to regroup,” said Sutter.
Oil Kings forward Josh Williams buried a rebound with 14 seconds remaining in the opening frame and the Rebels chased the game from there, particularly in the second frame.
“I thought the second period put us on our heels,” said Sutter. “They took it to us pretty good in the second.
“If you don’t get engaged and finish checks you’re chasing the puck around and losing your coverage, just things that guys have to be sharper at.”
The Oil Kings produced the eventual winning goal in the second period with Atkinson breaking into the low slot and converting a pass from Williams.
The visitors continued to carry the play in the third until Rebels rookie Jaxsen Wiebe delivered a couple of big hits that gave his team a definite lift. From there, Red Deer had more than their share of the play the rest of the way.
“Once we started getting engaged and finishing checks with more guys involved in the third we started playing well again,” said Sutter, who was impressed with several of his rookies, including Wiebe, Jace Isley, Jayden Grubbe and Keaton Sorensen, who drew an assist on Melin’s goal.
“Those guys had a pretty solid game the whole night,” added the Rebels boss.
Brett Davis pulled the Rebels to within a goal at 13:46 of the final frame, his quick wrist shot from the high slot beating Oil Kings netminder Dylan Myskiw low to the stick side.
The Rebels pushed for the equalizer but David Kope put the game on ice with just over two minutes remaining, connecting from a goalmouth scramble.
“We had a pretty good start, kind of feeding off the crowd,” said Davis. “But they scored on the power play and kind of took the momentum away from us, then got another one (goal).
“We had a better third and will come back strong tomorrow,” he added, in reference to Sunday’s 4 p.m. rematch in Edmonton.
Davis liked what he saw from the Rebels’ pack of rookies, seven in total.
“They did good. I remember my first game in the league, I was really nervous. You don’t want to make mistakes and stuff like that,” said the 20-year-old.
“As time goes on they’ll learn when it comes to turnovers and little things like that.”
The quicker the better, obviously.
“It’s the first game and there are some things we obviously have to work on,” said Sutter. “But it’s a good test for our kids to see where they have to be. And not just our kids, but our veterans too. We need to get 60 minutes from those guys every night.
“It’s a learning thing for us. It was an emotional game for a lot of players being on home ice and with a lot of different things involved. And we were playing a very good team.”
Myskiw made 27 saves while Rebels goaltender Ethan Anders turned aside 28 shots. The Red Deer stopper kept the game close in the middle period when he made a sliding save on Kope and got a pad on a dangerous shot by Atkinson.
The Oil Kings were one-for-three on the power play while the Rebels were zero-for-four with a man advantage.