Blazers 4 Rebels 3 (OT)
The math is simple, but the process is complicated.
When you only show up for 20 minutes in a 60-minute game, the result doesn’t often turnout in your favour.
The Red Deer Rebels (16-12-4-2) tried and failed to defy the mathematics of a win in a rare Tuesday night WHL game, but fell short 4-3 to the Kamloops Blazers (19-12-1-1) in overtime at the Centrium.
“It was 20 minutes of hockey,” Rebels GM and head coach Brent Sutter said simply. “I didn’t think we played very well at all for the first two periods. We were soft, not finishing checks. A lot of turnovers. In the third period we woke up and started playing like we needed to play.”
Late in the three-on-three extra period, the puck got lost in Brandon Hagel’s skates and Deven Siederoff was behind the play for the Blazers and made no mistake on a backhand over the pad of Lasse Petersen.
Trailing 3-1 heading into the third period, Sutter explained to his group about how ice time would be distributed, and it was largely the line of Hagel, Austin Pratt and Evan Polei who answered the bell. Pratt scored 1:15 into the third on the power play to cut the lead to one, and Polei tied the game on a beautiful effort from Josh Mahura coming out of the penalty box and finding the Rebels assistant captain.
Sutter said that was by far his best line, but knows he will need a better effort from the other nine forwards well his two, perhaps three best are out of the lineup.
“I told the kids after the second period their are guys that are getting opportunities to be put into different roles now and different slots on the team because different individuals are gone or out with injuries,” Sutter said.
“Up to then they hadn’t played well. We can’t have that now. This is the time when you get that chance, you gotta step up. In overtime we had our chances and so did they.”
Polei finished the game with a goal and an assist, and was named second star for his effort, but said plainly the team wasn’t good enough for the first 40 minutes.
“We weren’t good enough in the first and second period. With Spacek, Musil, Pawlenchuk and de Wit out of the lineup, there are lots of young guys in our lineup but we can’t have that excuse,” Polei said.
“Those guys have to take advantage of the opportunities that they get and for the first two periods, all of us weren’t good enough. In the third we were a lot better, that’s how we need to play every night.”
Pratt’s power play goal early in the third was his first non-even strength point of the season, and his fifth straight with a point.
Down the stretch Tuesday, his line played almost every other shift, including a full power play. Polei acknowledged their group will be expected to play big minutes, and will be up to the task going forward when called upon.
“We just have to have short shifts,” he said.
“You can’t get stuck out there in our zone for a minute, minute and a half. You have to get every line rolling and the shorter the shifts are the more energized we’ll be on the bench. That’s just the key to the game.”
Petersen kept the Rebels in the game through the first period when they only had four shots to the Blazers 11, and turned aside 16 more in the second. He finished the night with 29 saves.
The Rebels will be back on home ice Friday night against the Kelowna Rockets with puck drop set for 7 p.m.