Optimist Rebels earn tie as tournament starts

The Red Deer Optimist Rebels didn’t get off to a perfect start in the Telus Cup — the national midget hockey championship — but it was a step in the right direction.

Rebels 2 Contacts 2

LEDUC — The Red Deer Optimist Rebels didn’t get off to a perfect start in the Telus Cup — the national midget hockey championship — but it was a step in the right direction.

The Rebels overcame a slow first period to pull out a 2-2 tie with the Saskatoon Contacts on Monday afternoon.

“We were a little nervous in that first period, but I thought we settled down in the second and created a lot of pressure,” said Rebels head coach Doug Quinn.

“I would have liked to win, but I’m happy with a single point.”

The Rebels trailed 2-0 after 20 minutes, before turning up their intensity and dominating the final two periods. They outshot the Contacts 18-2 in the second period, but it wasn’t until 15:50 that they finally broke through against Saskatoon netminder Mack Shields, when Nick Glackin converted a Brady Bakke rebound while killing a penalty.

“We played a great second period, but weren’t getting the goals,” said Bakke. “But we finally got a break and buried it. We needed that to get into the game.”

Quinn agreed.

“It was one of those games where we were getting a lot of shots and were creating a number of opportunities, but their goalie was playing really well.

“Sometimes it happens that way where you score early and sometimes you don’t. It was important for us to stay patient and work our way back into it.”

Scott Feser got the Rebels even at 6:16 of the third period, deflecting a Cole Berreth point shot.

“We had some good pressure and the puck went back to the point and I was able to get a piece of it. It seemed to change direction three times and popped up and in,” explained Feser.

The Rebels continued to put pressure on Saskatoon, but Shields was solid, including making a spectacular leg save with five minutes remaining to preserve the tie. The Rebels held a 10-4 edge in shots in the final frame, and 40-14 overall.

“The first period we weren’t as strong as we needed to be, but the second and third we outplayed them, but their goaltender played well, credit to him,” said Bakke, who was named the Rebels player of the game.

“If not for Shields we wouldn’t be close,” said Contacts head coach Marc Chartier. “For eight to 10 minutes we played alright, but if we played like this in our league we wouldn’t have gotten this far. We can play a lot better. We did have three weeks off and once we get the rust off we’ll get better as the week goes on.”

The Contacts jumped into a 1-0 lead at 6:27 of the first period on a perfect shot by Josh Ulrich, picking the corner over Dasan Sydora’s shoulder on the stick side.

Rourke Chartier made it 2-0 at 15:44 squeezing a shot in between Sydora’s right leg and the post while on the power play.

“We were pretty nervous in the first period, but they were gone in the second and third and we got back to playing hockey,” said Bakke. “It’s a big stage, but it’s still just hockey.”

The Rebels also took Quinn’s words to heart after the first period.

“He said to keep going, play our game and we’d wear them down. Get on the body, forecheck hard and the goals will come,” added Bakke.

Although it was a tie it was a better start for the Rebels than two years ago when they lost their opener on their way to a 1-4 record and fifth place.

“Two years ago we weren’t healthy and didn’t have as much depth,” said Quinn. “We lost our first game and lot of a lot of confidence and it was hard to recover. I was happy with the effort, but it’s only one game. It’s a marathon and we have to be ready to play all the games.”

The Rebels, who are making their ninth trip to the Telus Cup where they have three silver and a bronze, were good, but can be better.

“For sure,” said Quinn. “Our power play wasn’t great.”

But except for the Contacts second goal the Rebels penalty kill was outstanding. In fact they didn’t give Saskatoon a chance to set up.

“They were dangerous early, but we made a couple adjustments as we didn’t want them to set up,” added Quinn. “We forced them to dump the puck in and once we did that they didn’t create a lot of opportunities.”

The best chance the Contacts had after the first period came with a little over a minute remaining when they hit the post.

The Rebels face the Moncton Flyers from New Brunswick today at 4 p.m. They clash with the host Leduc Oil Kings Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., the Quebec champion Phenix du College 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. and the bronze medal game at 11 a.m. and the final at 3 p.m. Sunday.

In other action Monday Quebec scored five goals in the first period and downed Sudbury 6-1 while

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