It was one of those games.
Despite outshooting the Red Deer Rebels and controlling the play for the majority of the game, one goal was all that was needed as the Rebels skated away with a 1-0 win over the Hitmen Saturday afternoon.
It was a tough defensive battle that could’ve gone either way.
“I thought our guys were exceptional in that third period,” head coach Steve Hamilton said. “That speaks a lot about where our guys were willing to go to and how hard they were willing to play.
“My takeaway from this game was that our guys responded well on an emotional level and were physically invested in the game. We never let the situation get away from us and there are a lot of positive takeaways but in the end we don’t have two points in the standings.”
Jeff de Wit scored the lone marker late in the first period, while Ethan Anders turned aside all 34 shots for the shutout win.
For the Hitmen, Jack McNaughton was solid ending with 16 saves and made some timely saves to keep the game within reach.
A day after the Hitmen were firing on all cylinders in the win against Medicine Hat, Saturday just wasn’t their game.
“Their goalie played a great game,” Mark Kastelic said. “It just wasn’t our game offensively but I think the guys battled well especially when it mattered most in the third.
“We showed up to play today and there’s not much else you could’ve asked for. Our work ethic and compete were there, things just didn’t go our way.”
The Hitmen were denied by the post on three separate occasions, one that came late in the final minutes of the third but the puck luck was not on their side.
The effort was there especially with the quick turnaround of having an early start, but the Rebels sat on their one goal lead and played their tight defensive trap game that they are known for.
“They pride themselves on their defence,” Hamilton said. “But I can’t fault our guys one bit, I’m proud of them to have the game they did against a well-rested team.
“I applaud our guys to rally up and play as well as they did.”
The Hitmen will now head out onto the road for a Sunday night clash against the Tigers to end a three-in-three weekend.
After drawing first blood in the season series, they know there will be strong push back from their rivals.
“We need to get ready for tomorrow and guys will have their own ways in getting prepared for this final game of the weekend,” Kastelic said. “Either way, we need to be ready to go as soon as the puck drops.”