Optimist Rebels 3
Canadian national women 1
This time, the Red Deer Optimist Rebels were prepared for the test and they came away with passing grades.
The midget AAA squad hooked up with the Canadian national women’s hockey team for the second time this season on Tuesday, and avenged a 4-2 loss on Oct. 2 by scoring three times in the third period and pulling out a 3-1 win before close to 1,000 fans at the Arena.
“When we played them the first time we’d been together as a team for about a week,” said Optimist Rebels head coach Doug Quinn.
“For this second game, we had an opportunity to work on some of our systems, including our forechecking, and I think our conditioning was a lot better.”
Indeed, the Rebels easily kept pace with the defending Olympic champions for the entire 60 minutes, unlike the earlier contest when the midget squad faded in the third period.
“I was really happy with our game tonight. Certainly our team structure is a lot better than it was and our conditioning is a lot better,” said Quinn.
And despite the fact that Tuesday’s game was strictly an exhibition and unlike the initial contest didn’t count in the Alberta Midget League standings, the Rebels were also hungry.
“They beat us the first time so I think our guys were a little bit motivated to beat them tonight,” said Quinn.
The national team’s best player was goaltender Kim St. Pierre, who faced 50 shots and didn’t surrender a goal until Jarrett Zentner snapped a scoreless tie at 9:29 of the final frame.
“Their goaltending was exceptional,” said Quinn. “ Our downfall this year is that we’ve struggled to score goals. In the games we’ve lost we’ve outshot teams almost two to one.”
Accordingly, potting three goals against a top-notch netminder was a confidence-builder for the Rebels, Quinn noted.
“That’s as good a goaltending as we’re going to come across this season,” he said. “And it’s a really enjoyable team to play against because they work so hard, their structure is so good and they’re so well-coached.”
Steven Makofka gave the Rebels a 2-0 lead five minutes after Zentner had beat St. Pierre, but the Canadian women got one back in short order, with Haley Irwin dipping in behind the Red Deer defence, taking a pass from Sarah Vallancourt and chipping a backhand past goaltender Mac Engel.
Justin Faux sniped the final goal of the evening for the Rebels, who got a 20-save performance from Engel.
While his team was clearly better on Tuesday than the version that came up short two months earlier, Quinn didn’t detect much change in the national women’s squad.
“Their goaltending was good the first game. We outshot them early that night and couldn’t get ahead when we had the opportunities,” he said. “They’re still very strong on the puck and they don’t quit. But we matched their intensity tonight and when we play that hard we usually do pretty well.”