Optimist Rebels learning on the fly

Red Deer Optimist Rebels head coach Doug Quinn would like another week before opening the Alberta Midget Hockey League regular season.

Coach Doug Quinn puts the Red Deer Optimist Rebels through their paces during practice at the Arena Thursday.

Red Deer Optimist Rebels head coach Doug Quinn would like another week before opening the Alberta Midget Hockey League regular season.

“We’ve had our team picked a little over a week and we’re learning on the fly. Plus we’ve had a number of injuries, or guys just coming back off injuries, so we’re still working on our systems and coming together as a team,” explained Quinn, who is in his first year with the midget AAA program.

But the Rebels won’t have any extra time to prepare as they open their regular season tonight at 8 p.m. at the Arena against the Canadian national women’s hockey team.

“It’s too bad we’re playing them this early as we’re not as organized as we will be, but it’ll certainly be a challenge,” added Quinn, who is interested in seeing the national team play.

“I watched them last year and was impressed with their speed, puck movement and team structure,” he said. “And this year’s team will be even better as they have everyone in camp as they prepare for the Olympics.”

As well this year’s meeting with Team Canada has extra meaning as it’s part of the Rebels regular schedule.

“Last year was just an exhibition game, so didn’t mean the same,” agreed Quinn. “But that just makes it a bigger challenge for our guys.”

One of the main challenges for the midget squad is to make sure they don’t use the body.

“That’s definitely a challenge as we encourage the guys to be physical, now they have to back off. But it’s just a bit of an adjustment.”

The Rebels have only one player — forward Nathan Dennis — who played against Team Canada last year.

“We were hoping to have a few more guys back, but that’s what we have for now,” said Quinn, who also expected a few more 15-year-old grads to move up.

“But a couple of guys are with their junior teams and a couple of others decided not to play,” said Quinn, who would have liked to have had defenceman Graeme Craig, who is with Swift Current of the Western Hockey League, and forward Riley Simpson, who is with Brooks of the Alberta Junior League.

Admission for tonight’s game is $5 for adults and $3 for students. Children 12 and under will be admitted free of charge.

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