Rebels fall to visiting Oil Kings in season opener
Oil Kings 4 Rebels 2
That’s not the way the Red Deer Rebels drew it up.
Spurred on by an enthusiastic gathering of 4,625 at the Peavey Mart Centrium, the Rebels were the better team in the first period of their WHL Regular Season opener Friday.
But the visiting Edmonton Oil Kings flipped the script and were the superior squad through much of the final 40 minutes enroute to a 4-2 victory.
“The first period was excellent,” said Rebels head coach Derrick Walser. “You get your home opener and what a crowd. I though the crowd was amazing, the support was there.
“The second period we came out and we came out not like men. They came out and made a great big push and we had no answer for it. Five on five I thought we executed in the first period, the second period we were on our heels and the third period was just all penalties and no one got into a flow.”
The Rebels stormed the Oil Kings net in the early going but couldn’t solve goaltender Kolby Hay. Instead, the visitors stuck first as Marshall Finnie converted a rebound while crashing the Red Deer crease.
Kai Uchacz pulled the Rebels even late in the period, notching the home side’s lone power play marker of the night on a one-timer from the left circle following a blueline feed from Quentin Bourne.
The Oil Kings restored a lead they wouldn’t relinquish early in the middle frame when Aidan Litke carried the puck in front and beat netminder Kyle Kelsey with a backhand offering.
The score held up until Edmonton newcomer Kian Bell was the recipient of a fortunate deflection and deposited the puck into a gaping net with Red Deer shorthanded.
The Rebels pushed through the final five minutes and pulled to within one on a one-timer from Carson Latimer, who converted a rink-wide pass from Jace Weir with Kelsey on the bench in favour of an extra attacker.
But the visitors sealed the deal courtesy of an empty net tally from Litke with 15 seconds remaining.
The Rebels struggled on too many of their eight power plays, connecting just once. The Oil Kings were one-for-six with a man advantage.
“Our power play wasn’t good enough tonight,” said Wallser, who also criticized his team’s shot selection along with a shortage of intensity in the tough areas.
“We were unwilling to shoot the puck or get to second pucks,” he said. “That’s the problem — we were too slow, we were taking too long to shoot the puck and we weren’t getting to the paint.
“Sometimes you’re not shooting to score, you’re shooting for a rebound. Every time we put something in the feet there was a cluster in front of the net. Then you have to get hungry. We weren’t hungry enough and Edmonton was.”
Uchacz saw the game in much the same light as Walser.
“I thought we had a not bad first and in the second they came out and wanted it more. And then near the end we weren’t disciplined enough and they get a (empty net) goal to take our momentum away.
“There was a lack of urgency, we didn’t get to the paint enough, weren’t greasy enough.”
The clubs meet in the second half of a home-and-home Saturday evening at Rogers Place in the provincial capital (7 p.m. 106.7 REWIND Radio, CHL TV).
“They manned up and now we have to go back and play them tomorrow and man up and compete,” said Walser.
“The sun rises tomorrow I guess,” added Uchacz. “We get another stab at these guys and we’re going to come with a game plan and play with energy and hopefully take two points.”
Notable: Hay made 36 saves and was selected as the game’s third star. Litke, with two goals, and Uchacz were picked as the first and second stars . . . Kelsey made 29 saves at the other end, including a first period beauty on Bell after the two Rebels defenders collided and fell inside the Red Deer blueline, leaving Bell and Finnie on a two-on-oh break . . . Latimer had a multi-point night with a goal and an assist.