At a time when they need every win available... it was another one of those frustrating 'lose one, win one' weekends for the Red Deer Rebels.
Friday night saw the Rebels finally return to the Enmax Centrium after an eight game road trip that covered three provinces and well over 6,000km. They were anxious to get back on the horse in front of their hometown fans with a win over the Swift Current Broncos.
Unfortunately, Jon Groenheyde had other ideas in mind.
He wasn't necessarily spectacular, but he was steady and in full control in a 4-0 Broncos win. It's just the second shutout of Groenheyde's career and second this season. Funny enough, both goose eggs have come against the Rebels. His 45 saves on Friday were the most by any WHL goaltender in a shutout performance this season.
For the Rebels... it was a game where they appeared hungry, but not hungry enough. Very few of their 45 shots were ones where the Rebels forced the issue by getting to a rebound or crashing the net. In other words, they did a good job of getting the initial shot away but not such a good job of following up.
In the end, the Rebels found themselves swept away by Speedy Creek in the season series four games to none. Needless to say those are eight valuable points in the standings. Just imagine how the Rebels playoffs chances would look had they managed to split the season series or better.
Saturday night... the Rebels had a chance to get back on track against a team they've played quite well against this season. Also working in the Rebs favour, the Saskatoon Blades came in having lost four of their last five games including 4-3 in OT in Calgary on Friday. And, much like their rivals from Red Deer, the Blades have been dealing with some injury trouble in recent weeks.
It didn't look good early when the Rebels squandered a pair of powerplay opportunities before giving up the first goal of the game to the Blades. The Rebels failed to score a goal in the first four and a half periods playing back at the Enmax Centrium. Thankfully, Bolton Pouliot held the boys in with a solid performance between the pipes (more on that in a future blog).
But that finally changed when Mat Dumba set up Chad Robinson for a pretty shorthanded goal to tie the game 1-1. Red Deer then failed to score on a pair of late second period 5-on-3 powerplays but you could see some confidence brewing as the third period arrived.
The Blades seemed to be a bit tired and the Rebels took advantage. Adam Kambeitz game his team the lead for good with a powerplay goal at 4:24 of the final frame. John Persson added an insurance marker and Dumba provided an empty netter for a 4-1 Rebels win.
Now we can't talk about the Rebels desperate playoff chase without talking about last night's game between the two teams Red Deer is chasing... the Regina Pats and Brandon Wheat Kings. The Rebs went into last night trailing Regina by nine points for the eighth and final playoff spot.
And for much of the night it appeared that Red Deer would be closing that gap to seven points. They had taken care of their own business by beating the Blades and the Wheaties appeared to be in cruise control leading Regina 4-0 in the third period.
But former Rebel Lane Scheidl got the Pats on the board 3:27 into the final period... and by the time the 10-minute park had past Regina came all the way back for a 5-4 lead. They added an empty netter for a remarkable 6-4 victory.
So... instead of gaining two points on Regina to sit seven points out of the playoffs, the Rebels gain two points on Brandon and sit eight points out. More frustration to say the least.
And here's a handy little stat courtesy of @WHLfacts on Twitter... Top 4 WHL Records Over The Last 10 Games: Portland (9-0-1-0), Moose Jaw (7-2-0-1), Regina (7-2-0-1), Brandon (7-2-0-1)... the last two don't come as good news for the Rebels.
From the 'wouldn't it be nice' file @WHLfacts adds this nugget... Eventhough @Rebelshockey are 8 points out of a playoff spot, they can still mathematically finish as high as 5th in the Eastern Conference.
Sigh... if only.
Anyhoo... it really was great to see the Rebels win one at home last night. They hope to do the same Tuesday night when the Calgary Hitmen come calling.
Tomorrow on this here blog... I'll have more on the Rebels along with thoughts on the Bentley Generals, Midget AAA Optimist Rebels, and the latest from RDC Athletics.
On a personal note... thanks to all of you for checking out there here blog. Apparently, there are quite a few of you dropping by to make this one of Red Deer's busiest blogs. I haven't even had to offer any bribes haha. Thanks for reading and feel free to spread the word.