The Red Deer TBS Rampage will be looking to make history next weekend with their first ever provincial championship.
The Rampage advanced to the provincial tournament with a 3-1 semifinal series win over the Edmonton Warriors on Saturday at the Kinex Arena in Red Deer, winning Game 4 10-6.
The Rampage had made it to three-straight North Division championships, but had not advanced to the provincial final since 2007. This year a new format was introduced with the top two teams from both divisions advancing to a tournament in Calgary. The Rampage will be joined by the Saskatchewan SWAT out of the North, and the Calgary Jr. Mountaineers and Calgary Chill out of the South.
“There was a lot of celebrating because of how tough and physical the series was but we haven’t accomplished anything,” said head coach Ron Just. “We’re definitely happy to be going but the work is just beginning.”
Davis Reykdal had three goals and two assists to pace the Rampage’s offence, while Spencer Lee had two goals and three assists. Pearce Just also had two goals with singles coming from Dawson Reykdal, Connor Hartley and Reid Swier. Ryan Beatson had three assists. Darrian Banack picked up the win in net for Red Deer, though he was lifted in the third period for Rhett Baldwin.
Tyler Sonnichsen had two goals and an assist for Edmonton while Drew Gingras scored twice. Ryan Ewashko and Andre Stobbe chipped in with one goal each while John McMillan took the loss in net.
Game 4, like the previous three, was closely contested. Though Red Deer opened up an 8-3 lead in the third period, the Warriors got the game to within two goals with 6:58 remaining.
But Red Deer stopped the rally with Lee’s first goal of the game, just eight second later. Lee then put the game away at 17:13 of the third period.
Just was impressed with the way his team responded after giving up three power-play goals in 1:32, and four goals in 2:57.
“It’s an emotional game, you want to stay level headed but still play with intensity — we played undisciplined,” said Just. “We got a bunch of penalties, we deserved everyone we got, but they were dumb penalties … it was just the emotion caught up with some of the guys.
“We’ve probably had more tight games than anyone in the league this year. When we get down tot he end and it’s a two-goal game, I feel pretty good with how our team is going to respond.”
Until that point in the third period, the Rampage’s penalty kill was suffocating. They scored three short-handed markers while killing seven other Edmonton power plays.
It was a big turnaround from the regular season when the Warriors scorched the Rampage with the man advantage.
“Our PK guys really listened to what we wanted to do and really focused on taking away their great shooters,” said Just. “In lacrosse, you should score on three quarters of your power plays, that was the game right there.”
The Rampage’s biggest offensive threat during the regular season, Reykdal (33 goals, 42 assists, 75 points in 14 games) backed up his gaudy stats on Saturday night. He posted five points, including a flashy behind-the-back goal at 17:54 of the second period to give Red Deer a 6-2 lead into the second intermission. He also assisted on both of Lee’s back-breaking goals in the third frame.
“In the third period especially when we started getting into penalty trouble, it was important for us to bear down and get focused, and we scored those two goals and shut them out for the rest of the game,” said Reykdal, 20. “Just mentally sticking to our own game and staying out of the box was the most important thing.”
The five-foot-10, 160-pound Reykdal is part of the veteran core of players on the Rampage. He is in his fourth year of eligibility while they have six players in their final season. But this will not be a case of one final kick at the can before a massive rebuilding program with six first year players gaining valuable experience this season and playing big roles.
“I think we’re deeper than every team in the league, so you might have to play four or five games in three days … so if we play smart it should favour us,” said Just.