The Red Deer Rebels have suffered plenty of heartbreak this season.
Saturday night was no exception as they saw a two-goal lead disappear in an eventual 3-2 overtime loss on home ice to the Saskatoon Blades.
“I don’t even know what to say. I thought we played really well here tonight,” Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter said as he struggled with what took place.
The Rebels opened the scoring just two seconds after their first power play of the game had expired. Grayson Pawlenchuk ripped home a one timer for his 15th goal of the season, set up nicely by Mason McCarty and Jacob Herauf, at the 11:35 mark of the opening period.
McCarty gave Red Deer a two goal lead 3:38 into period two when he put home his 22nd goal of the season, with the assists going to Brandon Hagel and Alexander Alexeyev.
Max Gerlach started the Saskatoon comeback, firing a rocket of a shot past Rebels goalie Ethan Anders 15:28 into period two.
The Rebels held onto their one goal lead until the late stages of period three, but then missed on a glorious chance to score an empty net goal to put the game away. The Blades took full advantage of their second chance as Josh Paterson scored with 1:43 left to play, setting the stage for overtime.
In the extra frame, Gerlach found the puck on his stick while in the slot and knew just what to do with it, ripping it past Anders at the 1:21 mark for the game winner.
Saskatoon outshot Red Deer 38-25 on the night. Both teams came up empty on their power plays with the Blades going 0/3 and the Rebels ending up 0/2.
Sutter did his best to put things in perspective following the game.
“You have to understand that we have a young team. I think we are the youngest team in the league right now and these kids have to learn certain things at certain times in games,” he said. “We’re playing 16- and 17-year old kids who have never been in these situations before and have never played these types of minutes before, and they have to go through that experience.”
Sutter added, “There’s nothing easy about learning and there are times in games you have to learn to crawl before you can walk and learn to walk before you can run. We have guys who are still in kind of a crawling stage because they’re so young and inexperienced.”
The growing pains the young Rebels find themselves going through, as Sutter pointed out, are not at all unexpected.
“We knew all along that this is where we would have to stay patient and keep working with these kids and continue to put them in these situations so they can continue to grow and learn.”
This was the eleventh straight time the Rebels have lost an overtime/shootout decision. Their record when leading through two periods this season falls to 6-3-2-0. They have also gone 77 days, since Oct. 28, without a home ice win.
Next up for the Rebels is another home game, Fri. January 19 when the Prince Albert Raiders come to town. Game time is 7 p.m. with the pregame show on 106.7 The Drive starting at 6:30.
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