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Rebels Get Help from Tigers, But Fail to Help Themselves

March 17, 2018 - Western Hockey League (WHL) - Red Deer Rebels News Release

The Rebels got the help they needed Friday night; problem was, they didn't take care of their own business.

The Rebels, with still a chance to finish second in the Central Division and gain home-ice advantage in the first round of the WHL playoffs, required the Medicine Hat Tigers to defeat the host Lethbridge Hurricanes, which turned out to be the case.

But Red Deer also needed a victory over the Kootenay Ice to keep their hopes alive, and instead dropped a 6-2 decision to the visitors before a recorded crowd of 5,205 at the Centrium.

As a result, the Rebels will open the playoffs on the road - at Lethbridge next weekend - following one last meaningless regular-season contest versus the Ice Saturday at Cranbrook.

Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter summed up his club's performance in two words.

"Not good," said the Rebels boss. "I didn't like our game outside of the one line . . . (Chris) Douglas' line played well but I didn't like our other lines at all tonight. I thought our top two lines got outplayed."

In a game that was supposed to mean everything to the Rebels and little to the Ice, who failed to make the playoffs, the home side stumbled out of the starting gate and was outshot 20-4 and outscored 2-0 in the first period.

Alec Baer connected at 5:29 when he worked off the boards and into the left circle and beat Rebels netminder Riley Lamb with a wrist shot.

Then, with the period winding down and Red Deer forward Josh Tarzwell serving a roughing penalty, Colton Kroeker notched a power play buzzer beater, finding the back of the net at 19:59.

The Rebels got back into the contest at 12:06 of the middle period when Brandon Cutler's pass attempt deflected off an Ice defender and past goalie Matt Berlin. But Kootenay answered back just 56 seconds later, with Kroeker, all alone on the doorstep, cashing a feed from Brett Davis.

Mason McCarty cut the deficit to one when he caught the low corner from the high slot at 14:34, but again the Rebels couldn't stand success as Keenan Taphorn, on the power play, converted a centering pass from Martin Bodak while unattended at the edge of the crease.

The Ice took their 4-2 lead into the second intermission and put the game away in the final period with a man-advantage marker from Gillian Kohler - Kootenay's third of the game - and an empty net goal from Peyton Krebs after Lamb was pulled in favour of an extra attacker with just over seven minutes remaining.

"We took some bad penalties and our penalty killing wasn't good," said Sutter. "We didn't work hard enough on it, but that was a reflection of how our game was."

Lamb was replaced by Ethan Anders with 3:18 remaining and Anders stopped both shots that he faced. Lamb finished with 31 saves, while Berlin made 26 for the Ice.

"We just didn't play hard enough here tonight to think you can win. You can't give up that many quality scoring chances at this time of the year and think you can have success," said Sutter. "We chased the game all night."

Referees Trevor Peluk and Allan Scott drew the ire of the fans in the third period when an obvious stick to Tarzwell's face was somehow ignored by the officials, and McCarty was then assessed a questionable tripping infraction which led to the visitors' third power play tally.

"There are things that happen in a game that don't go your way, with penalties or whatever," said Sutter, who was visibly angered by the non-call on Tarzwell as well as two on Red Deer forward Brandon Hagel just minutes later.

"But it didn't have any input on what we didn't do as far as how we had to play. It wasn't a very good game for us tonight."

Notable: Reese Johnson was honoured twice as the Rebels handed out their individual awards prior to the game. Johnson received the Darcy Robinson most under-rated player award as well as the Red Deer Advocate players' award. Kristian Reichel was named Communications Group most valuable player, Dawson Barteaux picked up the Laebon Homes top defenceman award, Grayson Pawlenchuk was honoured as the ATB Financial humanitarian of the year, McCarty was presented with the Hampton Inn and Suites top scorer award and Anders was named the rookie of the year (Big 105).

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