It goes without saying that the Red Deer Rebels need to change a few things if they hope to experience post-season success.
The Rebels were left licking their wounds after losses of 6-0 and 8-3 to the Lethbridge Hurricanes in games one and two of their opening round WHL playoff series over the weekend. Games three and four in the best-of-seven affair go Tuesday and Wednesday at the Enmax Centrium (7 p.m. game times).
One thing Rebels players know they need to correct, in a hurry, is the fact that Lethbridge has been the harder hitting team through two games.
“They’re being pretty hard on us, trying to bully us out of the rink and we’re letting them do it,” veteran forward Mason McCarty said Monday. “We don’t have any pushback. I know we’re young and don’t have a lot of playoff experience, but at this time of the year you can’t just rollover.”
Also high on the Rebels “to do” list is to make life harder on Hurricanes goalie Logan Flodell, who’s been sharp in turning aside 61 of the 64 shots he’s faced.
“We just need more guys in front of the net. Like you saw on my goal, [McCarty] is standing in front of the net. That’s what it’s going to take - guys in front of the net, guys around him, guys getting in his grill a little bit,” noted Hagel. “He’s a good goaltender, there’s a reason he won goaltender of the year. But I think that’s what it’s going to take and that’s what we’ve got to start doing in these next two games.”
The Rebels also need to tilt special teams in their favour, and in a big way. They’ve gone just 2/15 on the power play while the Hurricanes are 6/8 with the man advantage through two games and have a shorthanded goal as well.
Red Deer started both games reasonably well but needs to be better at recovering after something goes wrong, McCarty says.
“Every time something bad has happened, we’ve gone into a nosedive. In playoffs, you have to be able to handle the momentum changes, the adversity and [the fact that] things are going to happen. You can’t fold over even though we’re young or don’t have a lot of playoff experience. You’ve got to push back.”
All things considered, Hagel says his team remains confident heading into games three and four at home.
“I think we’ve got a little bit more [to give]. It’s the first to four, not the first to two. We still have games ahead of us, so the mood has to be good. We can’t be down and I think we’re doing a pretty good job with that.”
McCarty added a word of caution, however.
“Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean it’s going to get any easier. The only that changes is maybe Brent’s matchups. But other than that you still have to play your game and we have to be a lot better.”
Lethbridge forward Brad Davidson was named WHL Player of the Week on Monday after piling up three goals and five assists in games one and two versus the Rebels.
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