They simply lost to a better team.
The effort put forth last night by the Red Deer Rebels would be good enough to beat a lot of teams in the Western Hockey League... but not the Edmonton Oil Kings.
Three goals in the span of 2:04 in the first period ended up being the difference as Edmonton clinched the Eastern Conference pennant with a 5-2 win over the Rebels at the Enmax Centrium. [GAME SUMMARY]
It was a great start to the game for the Rebels. They came out flying and took an early 1-0 lead courtesy of Marc Mackenzie (just his 2nd goal of the season). It was great to see Mackenzie finally find a way to bend the twine as has been a strong presence in the last handful of games that I've seen. I thought he was one of the few bright spots in Tuesday's loss to Calgary.
The Rebels continue to take the play to the Oil Kings. At one point, the shots on goal were something to the tune of 11-5 (sorry, I don't have the exact number written down) and had the momentum.
And then... the game turned on a dime thanks to penalty trouble.
Conner Bleackley was sent off for tripping, allowing the WHL's #2 ranked powerplay to take the ice. And, if that weren't already trouble enough, Alex Petrovic got sent off just 19 seconds later for cross-checking. Yup, trouble.
TJ Foster scored on the 5-on-3 to tie the game 1-1. 30 seconds later Foster scored again to give Edmonton a 2-1 lead.
Old mo had switched sides in a real hurry.
Curtis Lazar then scored again for Edmonton before the end of the period. Three goals in 2:04 made it 3-1 for the Oil Kings. For the rest of the night... the Rebels were in chase mode.
Try as they might, the Reb simply couldn't muster up enough offense to get back in it. Yes, Mason Burr did make it 3-2 late in the second period (congrats to Dexter Bricker for earning his first WHL point with the assist) but the game was never really in doubt once the Oil Kings took the lead.
In the third period, when the Rebels needed to mount their most desperate attack, Edmonton held them to just six shots while firing fourteen of their own on Deven Dubyk.
Simply put... the better team won the game. Not easy for the Rebels and their fans to take... but that's the lay of the land. Give the Rebs credit for another full out effort put forth. Too bad the results didn't match.
Big props go out to the faithful fans who turned out to the Enmax Centrium last night to cheer on their hometown heroes. I can't remember many games in the past few seasons where the electricity in the crowd matched last night's.
The Rebels really are on their last gasp. Saskatoon beat Brandon last night 6-2. The only scenario left for the Rebels to get into the postseason is for them to win all five games they have remaining and to have Brandon lose their remaining four. That would put the Rebels and Wheaties even with 76 points creating a one game tiebreaker to determine who gets the 8th and final playoff spot.
The Rebels visit the Oil Kings tonight in Edmonton. Game time is 7:30pm. Catch the broadcast with Cam Moon on 106.7 The Drive starting at 7:20. It's fan appreciation night for the Oil Kings... word is there will be more that 15,000 fans in attendance at Rexall Place.