The Red Deer Rebels didn’t have another comeback in store for the hometown crowd at the ENMAX Centrium on Sunday.
Despite heading into the weekend with a 3-1 lead in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Lethbridge Hurricanes, the Rebels find themselves in a do or die situation after a 4-1 loss in Game 6 on Sunday night.
The loss comes hot on the heels of a 5-3 defeat at the hands of the Hurricanes in Game 5 of the series on Saturday night.
“You know what? Every one of you guys standing here; you guys didn’t have us in this situation. You guys thought the Lethbridge Hurricanes were going to beat the Red Deer Rebels 4-0 because they had 20-some odd points in the standings. Our guys have played hard in this series and trust me that team was sweating it for the last week because they were supposed to beat us four games straight,” Rebels’ Head Coach/GM Brent Sutter told gathered media after the game.
Although Michael Spacek kicked off the scoring for the Rebels late in the first period to give his team a 1-0 lead, that was the only goal the home team would muster in the evening contest.
It didn’t last long though, as seven minutes into the second period Red Deer Minor Hockey product Ryan Vandervlis notched the game tying goal.
From that point on it was all Hurricanes.
“For us personally, for 30 minutes we played well but after they got that first goal we just started getting on our heels a little bit; started making some mistakes and they’re a good team and they capitalized on the mistakes. Then we took some penalties and it hurt us,” Sutter said.
The Rebels were able to kill off all but one of their five penalties on the night, including a five minute major incurred by forward Evan Polei for checking to the head in the final 10 minutes of the third.
Unfortunately, the one power play goal they gave up turned out to be the insurance marker and a key nail in the coffin for the home side, as Hurricanes’ Captain Tyler Wong fired the puck past Rebels goalie Riley Lamb less than 30 seconds into the third to make it 3-1 Lethbridge.
The goal helped the Hurricanes overcome the third period woes they’ve been having this series as they held the Rebels scoreless in the final frame.
“I thought tonight Wonger stepping up, scoring a goal, getting us a two goal lead helped and then we just played the right way to finish the period,” said Hurricanes’ Head Coach Brent Kisio.
“We lost a few games late more than anything and right now we’re kind of seeing those games out. It’s been an awesome series I think it’s been pretty entertaining. If you’re a fan, you should be coming out to watch because it’s been great hockey.”
Sutter said the Rebels are going to head into Game 7 on Tuesday night knowing that anything can happen.
“If we were told at the start of the series that we would be playing in Game 7 when everyone had us counted out — we know where we’re at, we know we’ve got a young team, we know that we’ve got a young defense and I think you see it at times, we’ve seen the times in this series where we’ve made some youth mistakes where it’s just cost us. But at the end of the day everything we do here has been a great experience for these kids,” Sutter said.
“Going into Game 7 will be a great experience and we’ll just see what happens. You never know. They’ll be ready to play and so will we.”
The Rebels and Hurricanes will meet on Tuesday night in Lethbridge for the deciding game of the series at the ENMAX Centre. Puck drop on that game is at 7 p.m.