The fact the Leduc Oil Kings reached the Alberta Midget Hockey League final may have been a bit of a surprise, but that doesn’t mean the South Division champion Red Deer Optimist Rebels can expect an easy time.
The Oil Kings come in on a roll after upsetting the St. Albert Raiders in the North Division semifinals and then disposing of the Sherwood Park Kings in the North final. And all Sherwood Park did was eliminate the North’s top team — the Edmonton Athletics — in the semifinals.
“We certainly respect our opposition,” said Rebels head coach Doug Quinn. “They’re well coached and have some high-end players. They have some small quick forwards and two or three good defencemen and solid goaltending. It will be a good challenge.
“Then again when you get to this point in the season nothing comes easy and you have to be ready.”
The Rebels won both games against the Oil Kings during the regular season — 4-1 and 5-2.
“That 4-1 game was a lot closer than the score indicated while in the 5-2 game that was one of our best games of the season,” explained Quinn, who feels his players won’t take the Oil Kings lightly.
“I think we realize how tough winning this league is,” he said. “Eventhough we won the last series (against the UFA Bisons) 3-0 every game was difficult. But once we got past that opening series (a 3-1 win over the Calgary Royals) I thought we settled in and were focused.”
The fact the Rebels have home ice advantage should make a difference.
“It should, it’s what we played for all season,” said Quinn. “We’ve been tough at home and our rink is a little bit bigger than the one in Leduc.”
The Oil Kings have several players among the playoff scoring leaders, but then they have played five more games than the Rebels, who received a first-round bye.
Jaedon Descheneau leads the Oil Kings with seven goals and seven assists in 12 games while Mark Radostits had eight goals and two helpers.
Connor Hartley leads the Rebels with seven goals and three assists in seven games while Dylan Hollman has five goals and two helpers and Nicholas Glackin two goals and four assists.
The Rebels go into the best-of-five final, which opens Friday at 8:15 p.m. at the Arena, with the leading goaltender in Tanner Jaillet, who had a 1.71 goals-against-average and a .929 save percentage. Kyle Hynes, who played only 200 minutes, has a 2.70 G.A.A. and a .926 save percentage for Leduc while Devin Buffalo, who played 534 minutes, has a 2.92 mark and a .919 save percentage.
l The second game of the final goes Sunday at 5:15 p.m. in Leduc with the third game Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Arena . . . If a fourth game is necessary it’s March 25 at 8 p.m. in Leduc with the fifth, if needed, March 27 at 3 p.m. at the Arena . . .. The winner of the series will face the B.C. champion in B.C. to earn the right to advance to the Telus Cup national final.