Simply put, it was not a fun night for the Red Deer Rebels or their fans at the Westerner Park Centrium on Saturday.
In what was the final of eight meetings between the Rebels and Calgary Hitmen, the home-side would come up short by a final score of 5-1.
The Rebels had defeated the Hitmen in six of seven previous meetings, scoring 27 goals in the process, but the effort on this night was much less than what was required for victory.
"It's really just a reflection of probably the last two or three weeks. It's been stupid hockey, undisciplined hockey, lazy hockey, and you look at the last three games with 15 goals against, or five per game, you don’t win games like that," Head Coach Brent Sutter lamented.
"We’ve had a lot of stuff we’ve worked on an awful lot in practice, but we don’t seem to be implementing it in games. Outside of Hags (Hagel), our best players aren’t our best players. They aren’t playing hard enough and it's killing us."
The first period began with a somewhat scary scene as Calgary's Dakota Krebs took a hard punch from Jeff de Wit during a scrap at centre ice. Krebs laid prone for about three minutes before leaving the ice with help from several teammates. De Wit also left to get treatment on his hand, but later returned.
At the 12:12 mark, Red Deer drew first blood on the scoreboard, as Dawson Barteaux notched his 6th of the season.
It was 1-0 Red Deer after 20 minutes, despite Calgary leading in the shots department 15-6.
In the second period is when Calgary took the game over starting with a goal at 3:07 from Mark Kastelic. The tally was the Phoeniz, AZ native's 35th and it came on the powerplay, just Calgary's second such goal in more than 20 opportunities during the season series.
At 8:09, Carson Focht scored his 15th giving the Hitmen their first lead of the night.
Just 1:18 later, Kaden Elder buried his 20th to make it 3-1.
Then at 15:19 of the second, while enjoying an extended 5-on-3 powerplay, Kastelic scored his 2nd goal of the night, again with the man advantage. The goal was his 36th of the season, and 19th powerplay goal, which leads the WHL.
Following a disastrous middle frame, Red Deer needed a spark in the third, but instead took three minor penalties including one just 13 seconds in.
James Malm potted his 21st at 8:24 to put the Rebels down for the count.
The loss for Red Deer also meant the end of Byron Fancy's three-game win streak which he'd strung together during the month of January.
Asked what needs to happen next, Sutter said the team will have to learn about getting up early and going to work.
"They just have to get mad a little bit and stop feeling sorry for themselves. Stupid hockey comes from stupid penalties," Sutter said, citing a delay of game minor and too many men minor taken by his squad on Saturday.
"It's not smart hockey, you're not thinking the game the right way. It's a lack of coverage in your own zone, and things we work on every day in practice. From a coaching standpoint, that’s what we get frustrated about. Mentally, they're not where they need to be and we've got to get back to the real world."
Brandon Hagel remains one point behind Aaron Asham's record for most all-time assists as a Red Deer Rebel.
The Central Division standings now look like this: Edmonton (66 points), Lethbridge (62 points), Medicine Hat (60 points), Red Deer (59 points-Wild Card 1), Calgary (57 points-Wild Card 2). Brandon is also not far behind with 51 points. Red Deer continues to have games in hand on everyone in that race, with the exception of the Wheat Kings.
Including their 12 games in January, Calgary is now 10-3-1-0 in their last 14.
Next up for the Rebels is a date with the Regina Pats at home on Feb. 8. Puck drop is at 7 p.m. and the broadcast can be heard LIVE on 106.7 The Drive starting at 6:30.
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