A heartbreaking result for the Red Deer Rebels has them on the verge of an early playoff exit.
In a tilt that truly did have a bit of everything, the Lethbridge Hurricanes downed the Rebels 5-4 in overtime Tuesday at the Enmax Centrium to take a commanding 3-0 lead in their best-of-seven WHL Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series.
Mason McCarty appeared to open the scoring for Red Deer just 30 seconds into the game. But following a lengthy discussion the officials overturned their initial call, deeming Hurricanes goalie Logan Flodell was interefered with and the game remained goalless.
Lethbridge struck for their seventh power play goal of the series just 1:05 later as Taylor Ross beat Red Deer goaltender Riley Lamb for his third goal of the series.
Late in the feisty first period, Brandon Hagel ignited the crowd with a shorthanded tally. Hagel’s third goal of the series came at the 18:14 mark and made it a 1-1 game.
Zach Cox gave Lethbridge a 2-1 lead just shy of seven minutes into period two as he dug the puck out from behind the Rebels net and banked it in off of Riley Lamb.
Red Deer tied the game again at the 13:38 mark on a rocket from Kristian Reichel.
The Rebels took a delay of game penalty in the dying seconds of the second period, same as they did in the first, and the lethal Hurricanes power play struck yet again. Brad Morrison, CHL Player of the Week, netted his fourth goal of the series at the 19:42 mark.
Lethbridge captain Jordy Bellerive put his team ahead 4-2 12:29 into period three.
With their backs against the wall, the Rebels got the spark they needed just 59 seconds later as captain Grayson Pawlenchuk fired one past Flodell to make it 4-3.
The sequence of events to end the third period was nothing short of remarkable.
With Lamb on the bench for an extra attacker, the Rebels came within centimetres of tying the game with 1:09 remaining. Video review, however, confirmed the call on the ice that Flodell just kept the puck from crossing the goal line.
Lethbridge ended up taking a delay of game penalty on the play, and the Rebels took advantage as Reichel ripped another one home from the blue line with 46 seconds remaining to tie the game 4-4.
As the final seconds of the third period elapsed, Hagel was called for goaltender interference, meaning the Rebels would start overtime shorthanded.
The extra frame, all 38 seconds of it, was just as eventful.
Mere seconds after Ethan Sakowich nearly won it for Red Deer when his dump in attempt bounced off the glass and toward the Hurricanes net, only to have Flodell make a diving save, Lethbridge came the other way and scored on the power play. Calen Addison fired a shot that eluded a screened Lamb for the game winner, giving the Hurricanes a stranglehold on the series.
Lethbridge outshot Red Deer 30-29 on the night and went 3/5 on the power play, putting them at a mind boggling 9/13 on the series. The Rebels managed to go 1/5 with the man advantage Tuesday.
“The big thing is special teams. They score every power play. We need to better at not taking dumb penalties. We need to be better at our PK,” Reichel remarked after the game.
“It (powerplay) has been the difference in the series,” echoed Rebels GM and head coach Brent Sutter. “They have got some tough goals on us which you don’t want at this time of the season,” Sutter said.
Rebels fans had a tough time swallowing some of the calls that didn’t go Red Deer’s way Tuesday night. Sutter was right there with them.
“It’s tough, goalies were getting bumped all night and we get called for goalie interference at the end of the game. It leaves things out there for questions, it is what it is, what are you going to do,” he lamented.
Game four of the series goes Wednesday night at the Enmax Centrium at 7 p.m. (6:30 pregame show on 106.7 The Drive).
“Nothing changes, we need to win tomorrow and I’ve seen lots of comebacks like that. We will be ready tomorrow, ready to battle. I hope we will win,” said Reichel.
Alexander Alexeyev returned to the Rebels lineup. The star Russian defenceman had been out since Feb. 28 with a hand injury and had an assist in Tuesday's game.
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