In what can only be described as a screeching halt to an impressive stretch for the boys in black, white and red; the Rebels’ six game winning streak came to a disappointing end last weekend after back-to-back losses to the Lethbridge Hurricanes and the Medicine Hat Tigers.
“It wasn’t a good weekend for us. We didn’t play well. We got what we deserved and that’s reality. You can’t play that way and think you’re going to have success,” said Rebels’ Head Coach and General Manager Brent Sutter of his team’s performance last weekend, which saw them drop a 5-2 decision to the Medicine Hat Tigers at home on Friday night before being pounded 6-1 by the Lethbridge Hurricanes on the road the following night.
The losses served as a particularly jarring wake up call for the Rebels, who before the game against Medicine Hat were playing some excellent hockey against some pretty good hockey teams.
“It’s unfortunate because we came off of playing some pretty good hockey. But when things are going well if you don’t stay with it and stay on it and continue to stay focused and play the game the proper way, it’s going to nail you in the butt at some point,” Sutter said.
For the Rebels, that point came in the final game of a stretch where they played eight of nine games on home ice, where they have been particularly good as late.
In fact, as of Monday, the Rebs held a 6-2-1-0 record when playing at the ENMAX Centrium.
“It’s something we’ve been addressing with the coaching staff for the last little bit as far as making sure we keep our level up where it needs to be and making sure we play the game the right way. Again, it happens like that and when you don’t do it, eventually catches up to you and it caught up to us this weekend,” Sutter said, adding that the fact both the Tigers and the Hurricanes are the Rebels’ Central Division rivals didn’t help ease the sting.
“That’s why I was kind of disappointed about the weekend was the fact that they were both divisional games. We had moments against Medicine Hat at home, we weren’t consistent in the game at all and Lethbridge we didn’t even play close to the way we’ve been playing; how we need to play.”
Sutter said while he gives a lot of credit to the Hurricanes for playing his team hard, the Rebels’ performance in their first road game in two weeks left much to be desired.
“You have 11 goals scored against you and you only score three, that says enough.”
Now the team has to prepare to play nine of their next 10 games on the road (10 in their last 11 if you include Saturday’s tilt with Lethbridge), something that they haven’t done a whole lot of yet this season.
“We have to win games on the road. It doesn’t matter where the games are played, you’ve got to play a certain way, you’ve got to play at a certain level and the way that our team is moulded this season we certainly need everybody to bring that to the table for us,” Sutter said.
And this stretch of games is going to be especially important for a young Rebels squad that is aiming to live up to the high bar set by last year’s team, which competed in the Memorial Cup tournament.
There is, however, a couple of bright sides for this year’s incarnation of the Red Deer Rebels. For one, their five on five play has been excellent and, while they have struggled to maintain a consistent pace on the power play and penalty kill, those are skills that come with time.
“We are using a lot of guys that haven’t done either one before — haven’t been on the power play, haven’t been on the penalty kill before, this is the first time. So we’re going through a learning curve with that,” Sutter said.
Only time will tell whether the Rebels can adapt and learn how to consistently play well on the PP and PK, but until then they’ll just have to buckle down and get some wins on this long upcoming road swing.