The Red Deer Rebels need to find the form that made them the 2010-2011 Central Division champs and fast.
Heading into Medicine Hat for last night’s game three of their Eastern Conference semi-final (results unavailable by press time), the Rebels found themselves trailing 2-0 after being thoroughly embarrassed by the Tigers in the opening two games at the Centrium.
Friday night, a capacity crowd watched in stunned silence as the Tigers opened the scoring when Boston Leier took a shot from just inside the centre line and beat Darcy Kuemper 3:23 into the first period.
Thomas Carr would make it 2-0 at 8:56 with a five-on-three powerplay goal, with Emerson Etem adding another powerplay goal just 10 seconds later to make it 3-0 after one.
The Rebels came out with some jump in the second, with John Persson beating Tigers goalie Tyler Bunz just 17 seconds into the middle frame.
The Tigers would regain their three goal lead less than four minutes later when Kale Kessy beat Kuemper for his third of the playoffs.
Tigers blueliner Jace Coyle would make it 5-1 less than two minutes later with another powerplay goal, sending Kuemper to bench and giving back up Dawson Guhle his first taste of the post-season.
But the Daysland native wouldn’t fare any better, giving up four more goals on eight shots to send the two teams to the second intermission with the Tigers up 9-1.
Kuemper would be back in net to start the third and although they played better, the Rebels weren’t able to beat Bunz.
The Tigers finished the night six for 11 on the powerplay, killed off all seven of Red Deer’s man advantage opportunities, and also scored a short handed goal.
Saturday night, the Rebels came out like gang-busters, hitting everything in sight and outshooting the Tigers 12-4, but it was Medicine Hat that would take a 1-0 lead to the dressing room after Hunter Shinkaruk beat Kuemper on a play that was close to three feet off-side.
“In the early going, I thought through the first period, we played very well. It looked like we were going and I thought we carried the play and had some opportunities,” said Rebels bench boss Jesse Wallin after Saturday’s 5-0 loss.
“We came out with a sense of urgency and didn’t give up much. We gave up that first goal and that was a tough break as the play was offside by about three feet. So that was a tough pill to swallow but those things happen come playoff time, and all year long, but they happen in the playoffs as well and you’ve got to be able to respond to them and I thought in the second period, we just didn’t play with enough urgency.”
Cole Grbavac, with his first of two on the night, would tally a powerplay marker to make it 2-0 Medicine Hat halfway through the second period, before Linden Vey beat Kuemper on a breakaway to make it 3-0 at 14:57.
Vey would add another powerplay goal with just 58 seconds left in the second to make it 4-0 before Grbavac made it 5-0 1:02 into the third to wrap up the scoring.
“At the end of the day, five on five I thought we were fine, but special teams was really the difference in the hockey game. We didn’t have enough sense of urgency on our powerplay, we didn’t execute well enough, we didn’t manage the puck well enough, we didn’t win enough battles to allow ourselves to get set up and it was the same thing on the penalty kill,” said Wallin.
“Our penalty kill has been in the top two and it was number one for a great portion of the year, and to me, it’s just not enough urgency. It’s about being willing to be in those shooting lanes. It used to take a month for us to give up eight powerplay goals. We just allowed them to score way too easily. We need more out of some individuals right now. That’s the reality of it and that’s what was discussed in the room. We need some guys to step up for us and raise their level and if we do that, we can claw our way back in. But we need some guys to raise their level.”
Game four in the best of seven goes tonight in Medicine Hat.