Rebels 3 Flames 0
The Red Deer Optimist Rebels had their hands full with the Calgary Flames during the Alberta Midget Hockey League regular season, so they didn’t expected it to be any different in the playoffs.
That was exactly the case as the two opened the best-of-five AMHL South Division final at the Arena Sunday afternoon.
The two battled tooth and nail for close to 47 minutes before the Rebels scored twice in 16 seconds on their way to a 3-0 victory.
The Flames actually looked to be a slightly better team in the first period, but once the Rebels found their legs they controlled the play.
“We were a little tight in the first period,” said Rebels head coach Doug Quinn. “We weren’t skating well, but we got our forecheck going in the second and didn’t give up much in the final two periods.”
The Flames held a 13-8 edge in shots in the first period, but couldn’t solve Rebels netminder Dasan Sydora, who recorded his third shutout in the playoffs.
“Dasan has been strong all year,” added Quinn.
“I thought once our defence settled into the game and adjusted to the speed, they did a good job.”
Quinn was also quick to point out the defence will need to continue to play well if they want to win the series.
“The Flames have a lot of quick forwards and are always a threat. The teams are very evenly matched and the last three games against them have been one or two goal games. This will be a very difficult series.”
The Rebels had their chances to score in the middle stanza when they held an 18-4 edge in shots, but couldn’t Calgary netminder Devin McDonald was outstanding.
“He’s been strong against us the last three games we played . . . he’s been a difference maker, so it was nice to get a couple goals past him,” said Quinn.
Scott Ferguson, who continues to play a strong game on the wing.
He got the Rebels on the board at 6:52 of the third period, taking a perfect lead pass from Joel Topping, and beating McDonald on a breakaway.
“The puck was rolling and I tried to settle it down, but in the end just buried my head and shot and it went in,” said Ferguson, who beat McDonald low on the stick side.
“That took some weight off our shoulders as we were struggling to put it in and missing the net . . . I know I had an open net earlier and missed,” added Ferguson.
Sixteen seconds later defenceman Kirk Johnson cut off the left side and beat McDonald high to the glove side with captain Brady Bakke scoring into an empty net at 19:23.
“Fergy had a real strong game and has been a little snake-bitten of late, but he got the opportunity on the breakaway and scored, which was a confidence boost for him and rest of the team,” said Quinn. “It was a good play and certainly lifted the weight off the team’s shoulders. We had a lot of opportunities to score, even in the last series, and were a little tight around the net.”
The win, especially being the first one in the series and at home, was huge, according to Ferguson.
“The first one is always hard and it sets the tone for the rest of the series,” he said, adding he feels he’s starting to play some of his best hockey of the season.
“I got my legs going toward the end of the year and have been feeling a lot better. I’m glad to be going in the playoffs.”
Ferguson plays alongside Scott Feser, both of whom are Red Deer Rebels draft picks.
“Scott and I played together since the second year bantam and know each other and work well together,” said Ferguson, who hopes the senior Rebels are watching.
“Hopefully . . . we’ll see how things pan out.”
The Rebels face the Flames in Calgary Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at Father David Bauer Arena with the third game Friday at 8 p.m. at the Arena.
“It will continue to be tough,” said Ferguson. “They have a lot of skill up front and a lot of speed and work hard. They also have a strong goaltender, who takes away the bottom of the net. We need to get some traffic in front and go upstairs on the rebounds.”
The Rebels finished with 38 shots on McDonald while Sydora faced 24.
Despite a physical game there were only seven minor penalties — four to Red Deer.