Optimist Rebels hold on for Game 1 win

The Red Deer Optimist Rebels didn’t get to where they are without overcoming a little adversity along the way.

Red Deer Optimist Rebel Cole DeGraaf

Red Deer Optimist Rebel Cole DeGraaf

Rebels 3 Oil Kings 2

The Red Deer Optimist Rebels didn’t get to where they are without overcoming a little adversity along the way.

They did just that in coming from behind to down the Leduc Oil Kings 3-2 in the opening game of the best-of-five Alberta Midget Hockey League final at the Arena Friday.

For the most part the Rebels dominated the game, holding a 1-0 lead and a 41-12 edge in shots after 40 minutes. However, it took only one minute and 50 seconds early in the third period to give the Kings the lead.

“We talked about it after the first period that we were outshooting them, but we kept them around,” said Rebels head coach Doug Quinn. “We had a lot of shots, but some were from the outside. You only get so many good opportunities to score and I thought our guys let up a bit when they had those opportunities.

“But they’re a resilient team and they gained a lot of confidence while we tightened up a bit and the result was a close game.”

Dylan Hollman put the Rebels ahead at 3:29 of the first period but Dylan Weaver beat Red Deer goaltender Tanner Jaillet two minutes into the third period on a two-on-one after a give-away in the Red Deer zone. Braiden Doucette put the Oil Kings ahead at 3:50 with a wrist shot from the point that snuck between Jaillet’s legs.

At that time Quinn called a time out, which may have been the biggest decision of the game.

“I felt after their second goal, which came shortly after their first, that the body language of our team wasn’t good. They were disappointed and upset. It was a matter of refocusing. We told them they were a good team and just do their job, don’t try to do everyone else’s, just relax. Once we settled in we got a huge goal from Dylan Hollman, which he has done all playoffs, and I thought we played with more confidence.”

Quinn wasn’t overly upset with his team’s letdown in the third period.

“That’s what happens a lot of times, you have to remember the age of these kids,” he said.

“They start focusing on the end results and there is fear of making mistakes, fear of failure. But once they refocused and just played the game you could see the difference.

“You have to remember Leduc is a good team and we have to come to play. It doesn’t take much for (the momentum) to change. We had a couple of breakdowns, started throwing the puck (around), mishandling the puck and suddenly we’re down, but we hung in there got result we looking for.”

Hollman tied the score at 9:53 taking a pass after an interception in the Leduc end, cut around the defenceman and across the net, slipping the puck in under goaltender Devon Buffalo.

Nick Glackin scored the winning goal on a tip in of a Dallen Hall shot at 18:13, just five seconds after a Leduc penalty expired.

The fact the Rebels were able to come back, showed why they finished first in the league during the regular season and won their first two playoff series — 3-1 against the Calgary Royals and 3-0 against the UFA Bisons.

“That’s been one of our strengths all season,” said Quinn. “We get contributions from a lot of different people on different nights. When one line isn’t going, another steps up and we had that tonight.”

• The Rebels had 51 shots on Buffalo while Jaillet faced 20 . . . The second game goes Sunday at 5:45 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 Friday in Leduc with the fifth, if needed, March 27 at 3 p.m. at the Arena.