Tanner Kaspick. Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall

© Copyright – 2018 – Victoria Sports News

Playing teams from Wild Rose Country became a thorny issue for the Victoria Royals this week.

Two days after dropping a 7-6 overtime-shootout loss to the Edmonton Oil Kings, the Royals were pricked again on Friday night, this time by the visiting Red Deer Rebels who skated off with a 4-3 victory before 4,217 fans at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.

Both Alberta visitors gave the locals firm tests in Western Hockey League play and Royals head coach Dan Price, who hails from the neighbouring province to the east, was glad to say goodbye to the two Central Division clubs.

“Both those teams played so hard and they’re so well coached. You know, as we said before, that they’re going to give you their best effort every night. They’re going to play you as tight and as hard as they possibly can and that’s what we saw from both teams,” said Price, whose club has now lost three straight games.

Chris Douglas’s goal, off a deflection off a shot from defenceman Colin Paradis at 12:41 of the third period proved to be the difference for coach Brent Sutter’s Rebels, who find themselves back in a battle for a playoff spot.

Red Deer came into the game on a strong run, winning nine of its last 12 games with two of the losses in overtime. It’s a far cry from a miserable 13 consecutive losses the team suffered just before turning it around. Six of those 13 setbacks were in an extra period or shootouts.

Victoria, meanwhile, suffered four losses in its last eight games, one of those defeats in overtime and another in the shootout loss to Edmonton on Wednesday. The Royals now fall to 34-21-3-2 overall while the Rebels improve to 20-26-10-3.

Lane Zablocki celebrates a goal against his former team. Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall

Regular starting Victoria netminder Griffen Outhouse sat out for his second straight game as he nurses an undisclosed injury. Dean McNabb made the start on Friday and faced 27 shots, many of the difficult variety, however, as the Rebels found their way in tight on their opponents. The Royals are still missing hulking defencemen Chaz Reddekopp and Ralph Jarratt.

Riley Lamb took to the nets for the Rebels and made 33 saves to earn the victory.

The Royals benefitted from an early power-play opportunity in the first two minutes of the game and captain Matt Phillips was thwarted by Lamb. Phillips did open the scoring, whipping a shot past Lamb while the Victoria captain was falling to his knees inside the left faceoff circle at 14:14 of the first period.

A wicked one-time slap-shot from Kristian Reichel, on a 4-on-3 power play, evened the score at 1-1 as the Rebels got on the scoreboard at 18:43 of the first. The period ended 1-1 despite Victoria out-shooting the visitors 13-6.

McNabb had to be on his toes early in the second period with an early save off Brandon Hagel on a Red Deer power play in the first three minutes of the middle frame. The Royals’ netminder rolled to his left as he got his blocker on the puck.

A glove save off Mason McCarty was then followed by another strong stop off Hagel as he cut in hard off the left side.

“He made some great saves. He’s improving his game a lot and it was great to see him step up and make some massive saves, for sure,” Price said of his netminder.

The Rebels solved McNabb with two goals in 1:34 as McCarty snapped the puck high, glove side at 9:56 of the second period and Brandon Cutler then out-waited McNabb on a partial break to make it 3-1 at 11:30.

Kade Jensen got one back for the Royals with just 7.6 seconds remaining in the second period as the Royals got a lucky break as he flipped the puck out front from behind the Red Deer goal and it deflected into the net off Paradis.

“The big key for us tonight was to match their work ethic. With their coach, Sutter, he knows how to get their guys going and we kind of fell back there a little bit a couple of times,” Jensen said of the second period.

Former Rebel Lane Zablocki tied it back up at 3-3 on a power-play goal at 5:16 of the third period and Red Deer looked to regain the lead, but McNabb came up with three pivotal saves over the next five minutes before the deflection ended the scoring.

“It was definitely a little bit of a challenge in the third period. You never want to chase a team. We always want to play ahead. That was the hard part going into the third period,” said Jensen. “We have to give credit to our goalie, he played well, but I think it was little mistakes. Clearing out the front of the net, little rebounds, boxing out guys – if we do the little things right I think their goals are prevented and that was a big thing.”

The Royals had gained momentum, but then gave it right back with the late goal. Now they will attempt to rebound Saturday night in a divisional matchup against the Vancouver Giants with puck drop set for 7:05 p.m. at SOFMC.

“In the third period we came back and poured the pressure on; unfortunate goal at the end there for them to take the lead, but we can take all the momentum from that third period into (Saturday’s) big division matchup,” said Zablocki, who scored against his former club and knows you’re in for a battle against any Sutter-coached club.

“Every time I’ve played Red Deer, whether it was in Regina, here or even once in Lethbridge, you know they’re not going to quit. Sutter drives it into his players that you’re going to work hard, the full 60 minutes, compete and play physical all night. Coming into the game, I think we all knew that was the type of game we were going to expect and that we would have to out-work them if we wanted to come out with the win,” Zablocki added of facing his former coach.

Goaltending:

Royals – Dean McNabb (L) – 58:52 Mins, 23 saves on 27 shots

Red Deer – Riley Lamb (W) – 60:00 Mins, 33 saves on 36 shots

Power Play: 

Royals – 1/3=33.3%

Red Deer – 1/4=25.0%

Next Up – The Royals continue their five-game homestand at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre tomorrow against the Vancouver Giants. Puck drop is set for 7:05 p.m.

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