Early on in training camp, Rebels captain Dawson Barteaux said the this year’s young Red Deer Rebel squad was going to surprise people in the Western Hockey League (WHL).
With their home opener being against the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) eighth-ranked Edmonton Oil Kings — the Rebels would need to start surprising right away.
The Rebels came into their home opener after going 1-3-1-0, while the Oil Kings finished 6-1-0-1 but it would be the Rebels who would come out applying the most pressure when Dallon Melin knocked in a rebound for the Rebels first goal of the year.
The Oil Kings, however, would quickly reestablish why their were the WHL Central Divisions best team last year, scoring two goals — one by captain Scott Atkinson and one with just 14 second left in the period by Josh Williams — putting Edmonton up 2-1 heading into the first break.
“I thought we had a good start and then they scored on the powerplay and took away the momentum,” Rebels Forward Brett Davis said.
The second period lacked the excitement of the first, with only the Oil Kings managing to find the back the net when Atkinson took a pass from Williams to score his second of the game.
“I thought the second period put us on our heels,” Rebels Coach Brent Sutter said. “After they got that powerplay goal it took us awhile to regroup again.”
The Rebels would head into the third down a pair of goals and needing to rekindle their early offensive success. They would that success with six to play in the period after a more physical brand of hockey eventually led to Brett Davis roofing a shot from the slot to put Red Deer within a goal.
“A team motto we have is to always finish checks on the ice. You can tell the crowd gets into it more when we do that and I think we fed off that in third which led to us playing a lot heavier and better,” Davis said.
The Oil Kings would, however, quickly shut down the Rebel’s hopes for a comeback after David Kope jammed in a loose puck in front of Rebels netminder Ethan Anders.
The Rebels would pull Anders for the remaining two minutes in the game — but Red Deer was unable to muster a push, leading to a 4-2 Oil Kings win.
The Rebels will head to Edmonton tonight to play the second half of a home and home — which is two out of eight meetings against Edmonton this season. Red Deer will play at home again against Calgary on Sept. 28.
“It’s the first game. There are things we obviously have to work on but it is a good test for our kids to see where they have to be at,” Sutter said.