Optimist Rebels earn playoff spot

If the Red Deer Optimist Rebels thought they were going to have an easy time with the Leduc Oil Kings they had another thing coming.

Rebels 3 Oil Kings 2

LEDUC — If the Red Deer Optimist Rebels thought they were going to have an easy time with the Leduc Oil Kings they had another thing coming.

The Oil Kings, who failed to score against the Rebels in their two regular Alberta Midget Hockey League meetings, jumped into an early lead and gave the Red Deer squad all they could handle, at least for the first period.

However, a pair of power play goals and a shorthanded marker in the second period proved to be the difference as the Rebels recorded a 3-2 victory and secured a playoff berth in the Telus Cup championship at the Leduc Recreation Centre.

“They definitely gave us all we could handle in the first period,” said Rebels player of the game Ty Mappin. “They outplayed us, outhit us. But we battled back in the second and third periods. We got a good effort from all our lines.”

Mappin mentioned that head coach Doug Quinn had a little talk following the first period.

“He just said to get our feet moving and make some passes and work in their zone.”

He also mentioned that they may have taken the Oil Kings a little lightly after beating them easily during the season.

“I think we may have come in expecting an easier game, but we shouldn’t have. We have to take all the games as another game no matter who we’re playing. I think we did in the second and third and it showed.”

The Reels have a history of starting slow and the Oil Kings took advantage when Doug Morris scored on a rebound at 2:04 of the first period.

In the end the teams split 22 shots on goal, but for the most part the Oil Kings were the better team.

“They definitely came out with a lot of energy and were very physical and it looked like we were skating in quick sand,” said Quinn.

“But once we got through that first period we had a lot more energy and our special teams were a key.”

Nick Glackin pulled the Rebels even sliding a shot under Leduc goaltender Brett Zarowny at 4:10 of the second period while on the power play. Mappin put the Rebels ahead while shorthanded at 9:50 when he took a breakaway pass from Stef Danielson and snapped a quick shot to Zarowny’s stick side.

“I was waiting for that after not scoring the first two games,” said Mappin. “It was nice to score for the boys.”

Scott Feser got what proved to be the game winner at 18:30 converting a Mappin rebound, once again on the power play.

“We talked a bit about some changes on the power play and we got more shots,” said Quinn, whose squad scored twice on nine opportunities while killing off eight penalties.

“We’ve been struggling on the power play but capitalized when we needed to,” said Quinn. “In fact the special teams were big today as we didn’t adjust to the refereeing and took some silly penalties. Our penalty kill was outstanding at key moments.”

The Rebels were playing a man short with Tanner Lomsnes on the sidelines with a tight back. He’s also one of the team’s top penalty killers and offensive threats.

“It happens and he should be back by the weekend,” said Quinn, who made a couple changes to the penalty kill as the game wore on.

“I thought we were getting a bit wore down as a lot of the guys who kill penalties are also on the power play. I started using a few more guys on the penalty kill and it worked out better for us.”

The win gave the Rebels a 2-0-1 record and assured them of a playoff spot while Leduc sits at 2-1-0 and are also in the playoffs with two games remaining.

Both the Sudbury Wolves and the Moncton Flyers are 0-3 and can’t catch either of the Alberta teams. They could tie Leduc, but the Oil Kings have defeated both of them.

“It’s good to get in but we want to win the next two games to get a better spot,” said Mappin.

Rebels netminder Dasan Sydora, who finished with 28 saves, indicated the team knew they’d make the playoffs with a win.

“It was definitely on our minds,” he said. “We came in here wanting to make sure we made the playoffs and take it from there.”

Sydora, who was in goal for the Rebels 2-2 tie with Saskatoon, had Tuesday off with Matt Zentner in net during a 2-1 win over Moncton.

“That was good,” said Sydora. “It gave me a chance to get regroup and get rid of a little soreness.”

And despite facing more shots than normal Wednesday he didn’t’ mind.

“They definitely came at me harder than during the season, but that was fine, it got me into the game.”

Robert Cain scored the Oil Kings second goal at 19:11 of the third period during a scramble and with their goalie out. However, the Rebels didn’t allow them back into the Red Deer end for the final 49 seconds.

Leduc head coach Greg Stamler, who is a former manager of Bower Place and helped raise funds for the 1995 World Junior Championships in Red Deer, is glad to see the team in the playoffs, but would have liked a win Wednesday.

“This isn’t the way we wanted to do it, as we want to complete at a high level every game, and win every game,” he said. “But this was our best game so far in the tournament. We played with a lot of energy and emotion, but our special teams hurt us.

“We had to manage the referee better. I thought there was some penalties we deserved and some we didn’t, but that was the same for them. The thing is they’re so skilled and deep that we can’t allow them to be on the power play.”

• The Rebels managed 38 shots on Zarowny . . . The Rebels face the 3-0-0 Phenix du College Esther-Blondin of Quebec today at 4 p.m. and finish round-robin play Friday at 9:30 a.m. against Sudbury . . . Quebec beat Moncton 9-5 and Saskatoon (1-1-1) whipped Sudbury 9-1 Wednesday . . . The semifinals go Saturday at 2 and 6 p.m. with the bronze medal game at 11 a.m. and the final at 3 p.m. Sunday.


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