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Optimist Rebels win regionals, ready for nationals

Dylan Thudium would have liked nothing better than to have scored the winning goal for the Red Deer Optimist Rebels in their 1-0 win over the Vancouver NW Giants in the opening game of the best-of-three Pacific Regional midget hockey championship at the Arena Friday.
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Jarid Lukosevicius

Rebels 4 Giants 3 (2OT)

Dylan Thudium would have liked nothing better than to have scored the winning goal for the Red Deer Optimist Rebels in their 1-0 win over the Vancouver NW Giants in the opening game of the best-of-three Pacific Regional midget hockey championship at the Arena Friday.

But he more than made up for any disappointment he may have felt when he notched the game winner at 2:02 of double overtime Saturday to give the Rebels a 4-3 victory over the Giants and a berth in the national championship Telus Cup.

“I kind of sucked that I didn’t get that goal Friday, but tonight it was good,” said Thudium, who was credited with Friday’s goal before it was changed to Ty Mappin.

Ironically Mappin was originally credited with Thudium’s game winner Saturday, but it was obvious Thudium ripped a quick snap shot high to the glove side of Giants netminder Liam Smith to send the near capacity crowd home happy.

“Tanner (Lomsnes) made a good play along the wall and chipped the puck to me and I just grabbed it, made a quick shot and it went off the bar and in.”

It was the second big goal for Thudium who scored the Rebels first marker that kick-started their comeback from down 2-0 midway through the second period.

Rebels head coach Doug Quinn called time out following the Giants second marker. Less than a minute later Thudium took a feed from Mappin and beat Smith.

“That got us back into it,” said Rebels netminder Dasan Sydora. “In fact Dylan had a great game and when he scored that winner, it was the best.”

Quinn liked the way Thudium has been playing of late as he looks to be fully recovered from a dislocated knee cap in January.

“Dylan was playing really well for us until January when he was injured,” said Quinn. “He was out six to eight weeks and he’s just getting back to his form. He certainly has offensive abilities and hockey sense. Today he waited for his opportunities and took advantage of them. It just shows the depth we have on this team. It’s not always the same people who step up for us.”

It may well have been the Rebels depth that was the difference in the series. The Giants went down to two lines and four defencemen while Red Deer was still able to roll three lines and six defencemen.

“We did a good job on the forecheck and kept a lot of pressure on them and eventually they tired out,” said Quinn.

The Rebels dominated the overtime, outshooting the Giants 11-0 in the 10-minute period and 3-1 in the second overtime session. Overall they held a 49-24 edge in shots.

But despite the edge in shots the Giants had their chances, especially in the first period when Sydora faced only seven shots, but three of those were point blank.

“Dasan has been there all year for us,” said Thudium. “I can’t remember him having a bad game.”

Logan Fisher scored the Rebels second goal at 18:59 of the second period, tipping in a Stef Danielson point shot on the power play. Nick Glackin gave Red Deer a 3-2 lead in the third period before Calgary Hitman bantam draft pick Josh Thrower connected on a blast from the blueline on the power play to tie the score.

Adam Helewka and Taylor Tanti scored the Giants first two goals.

The win fulfilled one of the Rebels goals this season.

“One of our goals was to win the league and when we lost to Vancouver last year it was something we didn’t want to feel again,” said Quinn. “We wanted to take it to the next step.”

And they’re not heading to the Telus Cup, set for April 23-29 in Leduc, with anything but first place on their minds.

“When we went two years ago we didn’t have as much depth and we had some injuries,” said Quinn. “We’ll be prepared.”

“It’s been our goal from Day 1 to go and win it,” said Sydora. “We feel we have the depth and skill to do it.”

Quinn well give the team a couple of days off before getting back on the ice Tuesday.

“This is a business and it’s back to work Tuesday,” he said. “We need to get completely healthy, work on our conditioning and systems so we’re ready to play.”

The Moncton Flyers will represent the Atlantic region, the Sudbury Wolves the Central region, the Saskatoon Contacts the West and the Phenix du College Esther-Blondin, Quebec, while Leduc is the host team.

The Edmonton Thunder beat Fraser Valley 3-2 and 3-1 to win the Pacific region in the midget AAA girls playoffs. They go to the Esso Cup in Charlottetown, P.E.I.

drode@www.reddeeradvocate.com