With two teams making their return to the Western Hockey League playoffs after missing out on the post-season action last year, it was hard to predict what to expect.
The Red Deer Rebels wasted no time in providing an answer.
Just 25 seconds after the opening face-off Brooks Maxwell got the Rebels on the scoreboard and from then on it was catch-up time for the Prince Albert Raiders as Red Deer went on to win 3-0 in the opening game of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final series.
“Its playoff hockey and these things are going to happen,” commented Raiders’ head coach Steve Young on the post-game show. “We have to respond accordingly.”
Although the Raiders had opportunities, it was the Rebels who continued to capitalize as Rhyse Dieno put Red Deer ahead 2-0 before the first period was over. Dieno, a former member of the Kamloops Blazers and Medicine Hat Tigers, was plucked from the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s LaRonge Ice Wolves by Red Deer in early November. In addition to the goal and assist he recorded in the first period he also had a penalty shot in the opening session, but was foiled by Raider netminder Luke Siemens.
The Raiders had some glorious chances in the second period as they had four consecutive power plays, including one stretch of a minute and 18 seconds with two Rebels in the penalty box, but they could not beat Red Deer goaltender Patrik Bartosak. The futility with the man advantage perplexed Young.
“We have to pay attention to what is instructed,” stated Young. “It was supposed to be a shooting power-play tonight. We didn’t shoot the puck.”
Cody Thiel scored a late goal for Red Deer in the second period and Bartosak shut the door the remainder of the way including a pair of stops on shorthanded breakaways by Mike Winther and Anthony Bardaro.
“I thought the effort, at times, came in spurts,” said Young. “The main thing is the guys can’t leave the dressing room tonight being disappointed.”
There is little time for the Raiders to get down as they have to regroup for Game 2 tonight. It was the first playoff game for a number of the players so having that experience behind them they will be able to focus more on the task at hand and try and get that all-important split.
Following tonight’s game, the series will return to Prince Albert for games on Tuesday and Wednesday.
RAIDER NOTES: Siemens finished the game with 27 saves while Bartosak stopped all 31 directed his way…Not dressed for the Raiders were Riley Guenther, Joey Santucci, Tim Vanstone, Nick McBride and Brendan Guhle…The Rebels had overage forward Jordan DePape in the line-up. DePape started the year in Kamloops, but was forced to retire in November when he required major surgery on an injured shoulder. At the trade deadline, however, he indicated he was recovering faster than initially thought and would be ready by mid-March. Red Deer took a chance on listing him and true to his word he suited up for the Rebels on the final weekend of the regular season to get ready for the playoffs…In other WHL action on Friday the Medicine Hat Tigers grabbed a 2-0 series lead over the Saskatoon Blades with a 3-0 victory at Saskatchewan Place and Stephane Legault had seven points in a 9-0 Edmonton Oil King triumph over the Kootenay Ice.