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Hard works pays off for Sydora

Dasan Sydora had to work for everything he got coming up through the Red Deer Minor Hockey Association.
Goalie Dasan Sydora of the midget AAA Red Deer Optimist Rebels makes a save during practice at the Penhold Multi-Plex Wednesday. The young puck stopper has had a long road to becoming one of the premier goaltenders in Canada but has showed his mettle this season and is ready to show his talent when the team starts the Telus Cup on Monday.

Dasan Sydora had to work for everything he got coming up through the Red Deer Minor Hockey Association.

But it’s paid off.

The Red Deer Optimist Rebels netminder has developed into one of the premier midget goaltenders in the country, leading the Alberta champions to the Telus Cup, which opens Monday in Leduc.

Much like Red Deer native Chris Mason, now with the Winnipeg Jets, Sydora came up through the ranks without playing at the AAA level.

“I had a couple of bad breaks and it didn’t work out for me to play bantam AAA, but I did play a year at the 15-year-old level,” he explained.

“I tried out here (with the Rebels) and with Leduc last year, but didn’t make it so I came back and played midget AA (with the Elks).

“But really it was good in that all the minor setbacks have pushed me to work so much harder. Nothing is ever given. You can always be better, but you have to work harder and harder to get there.”

Rebels head coach Doug Quinn didn’t know much about Sydora prior to the season.

“I heard a lot about him, how well he played last season. I heard his team would be outshot 55-15 and win 2-1. I knew we were getting a solid goalie, but I never through he’d develop as well as he has. He’s a late bloomer.”

At five-foot-nine Sydora has always been forced to catch a coach’s attention with his skills rather than his size.

“These days a lot of goalies are bigger, but I make up for that with my quickness, speed and reactions. I try to be a little more aggressive and it’s working out well for me,” he said. “A lot of other coaches and players see that you don’t have to be big to stop a puck.”

Quinn stresses that Sydora doesn’t play like a smaller goalie.

“He’s learned to adjust his game. Shooters try to go high on him, but he’s very athletic and very focused.”

Plus he consistently works to be on top of his game.

“His mental preparation for games and practices is better than I’ve seen at any level,” said Quinn. “He really works hard at his trade . . . he’s such a competitor and his work ethic is second to none.”

The fact Sydora helped lead the Elks to the provincial midget AA championship last season was a benefit coming into this year.

“We were in an underdog role as we had a tough battle with Sylvan Lake just to get out of the zone. Then when we got to the provincials we were just happy to be there and to win it was like icing on the cake.

The 17-year-old came into this season hoping to take the next step up.

“I was hoping I had a good shot, and it worked out well. Once I found out (I made the team) it was an awesome feeling. And the year we’ve had, and I’ve had, so far is unreal. Now we want to finish it off by winning the Telus Cup.”

Outside of his overall skills, his ability to focus is one of Sydora’s strengths.

“We have a team that keeps the shots down and you have to be mentally sharp and keep yourself in the game,” he said.

“He is the right goalie for our team,” added Quinn. “We don’t allow a lot of shots, but as we usually do when we do give up a shot it’s a tough one.”

Sydora, who shares the goaltending duties with Matt Zentner, will join the Spruce Grove Saints of the Alberta Junior Hockey League next season.

“We have a good relationship and I hope to fit in next season,” he said, adding he hopes to receive an NCAA scholarship offer and eventually get a chance to play pro.

But first things first.

“That’s the Telus Cup. That’s all we’re concentrating on now,” he said.

The Rebels face the Saskatoon Contacts in their opener, Monday at 12:30 p.m.

“I haven’t heard a lot about them, but they’re supposed to be young and skilled,” said Sydora. “But we’ve dealt with those type of players before.”

Quinn doesn’t know a lot about the Contacts either, except they had nine 15-year-olds and up to 17 kids listed with junior teams.

“Historically teams out of the West (Saskatchewan and Manitoba) are always one of the top teams in the tournament, so I expect them to be very, very good.”

The Rebels face the Moncton Flyers Tuesday at 4 p.m. and the host Leduc Oil Kings Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. They take on the Quebec champion Esther-Blondin Thursday at 4 p.m. and the Sudbury Wolves Friday at 9:30 a.m.

The semifinals go Saturday at 2 and 6 p.m. with the final Sunday at 3 p.m.