Optimists collapse

Hockey has had its share of great comebacks, but few can match the swing of events that took place between the Red Deer Midget AAA Optimist Rebels and the Canadian Athletic Club (CAC) out of Edmonton Sunday afternoon at the Arena.

Red Deer Optimist Rebel Collin Valcourt cuts past CAC Canadian Brendan Rooney Sunday. The teams tied 8-8.

Rebels 8 Canadians 8

Hockey has had its share of great comebacks, but few can match the swing of events that took place between the Red Deer Midget AAA Optimist Rebels and the Canadian Athletic Club (CAC) out of Edmonton Sunday afternoon at the Arena.

The Rebels carried a three-goal lead into the final three minutes only to watch it evaporate in a span of 50 seconds as the Alberta Midget Hockey League game finished in an 8-8 draw.

“We thought we had it in the bag — (the players) did,” said assistant coach Ted Jardine. “Then we reverted back to some selfish play again. We took some penalties that aren’t ordinary and it caught up to us.”

The comeback was part of an eight-goal period between the two teams. Red Deer scored three goals — Tanner Dunkle, Collin Valcourt and Steven Makofka — in the first eight minutes to take a 7-4 lead. Cole Poznikoff responded for CAC at 10:46 on the power play but Dunkle struck back just 12 seconds later to put the Rebels up 8-5.

It was looking good for a ‘W’ for the home team until 17:19 when the wheels came off completely and without warning. Tyler James Fairall started the Canadians’ rally on the power play and then Senate Patton scored twice at 17:41 and 18:09 to knot the score.

The Rebels had a couple of chances to re-take the lead late but could not beat Brett Lewis in the CAC net who replaced starter Christopher Wray after the eighth Red Deer goal.

The tie was a tough pill to swallow for the Rebels who outshot Edmonton 49-29.

“We played pretty well the whole game and then the last five minutes we kept turning it over and taking dumb penalties and it cost us,” said Valcourt.

The Rebels also got goals from Jaret Smith, Jarrett Zentner, Steven Makofka and Troy Klaus — all in the opening 20 minutes. Meanwhile Tyrell Goulbourne and Branden Trook scored for CAC in the first period and Jackson Dudley and Stephen Zip in the second period.

Rebels goalie Travis Weber was pulled after letting in four goals on 13 shots through two periods and Mac Engel surrendered four goals on 16 shots in the final frame.

Valcourt has had a solid first half season with the midget AAA club — his goal and assist effort Sunday gave him a team leading 20 points (12 goals and eight assists) in 16 games.

“I couldn’t do it without my linemates — they’re feeding me and I’m just getting lucky right now and getting the bounces going my way. Hopefully it keeps going and the bounces keep coming,” he said.

“The first couple of weeks it was pretty hard . . . and then I got on a roll and just adapted to the games and it’s kind of slowing down now.”

But his performance to this point is nothing new for Jardine who has coached him the last couple of years with the midget 15 year olds and in bantam AAA. He says this is just the start of what’s to come from the 16-year-old forward.

“He’s a power forward who likes to take the puck to the net and he likes to create traffic in front of their goalie. He gets a lot of garbage goals but those are big goals for our hockey team,” said Jardine. “He has a huge upside and he is getting better every year. Since his bantam year he has just got better and he has been one of the better forwards in Red Deer for a long time.”

Valcourt’s familiarity with his team doesn’t end with Jardine. He has actually played with the bulk of his teammates throughout minor hockey and has showed a fast chemistry with many of them as lines have been juggled to accommodate injuries. This chemistry was on display with his third-period tally on Sunday when he finished off a pretty give-and-go play with Jarrett Zentner.

That cohesiveness is a big reason why this team with only a couple of veterans is leading the AMHL’s South Division at 12-4-3.

“I’ve known the guys growing up and we’ve always had a winning record here, the coaches are good and they really keep us together,” said Valcourt. “I thought (heading into the year) we would have a really good shot of making the Telus Cup this year looking at the team.”

The Rebels are on the road next weekend to close out their first half schedule. They are in Sherwood Park on Saturday and then St. Albert on Sunday.

jaldrich@bprda.wpengine.com

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