CALGARY — It wasn’t a Happy New Year for the Red Deer Midget AAA Optimist Rebels, it was actually quite disappointing.
Coming off of one of their best games of the season — an 8-3 win over the Prince Albert Mintos in the quarter-final of the Mac’s Midget AAA Hockey Tournament Thursday morning — the Rebels came up one game short of reaching the finals with a 5-4 double overtime loss to the UFA Bisons out of Strathmore.
“(The players) were very disappointed,” said Rebels coach Dough Quinn. “I think we all realized that we probably let an opportunity to do something very special get away. But that’s sports, sometimes the best team doesn’t always win.”
The Bisons went on to lose the final 2-1 to the Vancouver NW Giants.
In the end a power play that has been so good for the Rebels all season let them down in a big way with the Bisons’ final two goals — including the game winner — coming shorthanded.
The Bisons fourth goal came at the 16:52 mark of the third period with the game tied at 3-3, the Rebels mishandled the puck in front of their own net and Kirby Ruzesky capitalized for Strathmore.
It took a Sam Jardine marker at 19:22 of the frame with the goalie pulled to force overtime.
On the winning goal at 15:40 of the second extra stanza the Rebels mishandled the puck at the blue-line and Ruzesky skated in on a break away and made no mistake in beating Travis Weber in the Rebels’ net.
The Rebels found themselves down early after Mason Burr and Anthony Paskaruk scored in the first period. However, Clayton Petrie and Justin Faux score in the first 10:42 of the second period to tie the game. Codie Fowlie score for Strathmore at 14:31 and Jarett Zentner knotted the game for Red Deer at 15:38 t set up the dramatic final period.
The toughest part for Quinn is knowing this happened to a team they had just beaten 6-3 on Wednesday.
“Sometimes things don’t always work the way you want,” said Quinn. “You can try your hardest and still not have the results you are looking for.”
The Rebels advanced to the semifinal by beating up a Mintos team that was regarded as a pre-tournament favourite. Faux and Collin Valcourt both scored twice for Red Deer while Zenter, Jardine, Petrie and Jared Guilbault added singles. Mac Engel collected the win after making 22 saves.
However, instead of dwelling on what could have been, the Rebels’ are moving on with their New Year resolution — a league title.
“I saw a real growth in the team,” said Quinn. “We had been real inconsistent the last three weeks and I saw a level of play from some of our guys that I hadn’t seen all year. I certainly expect us to be there at the end.
“This was one of our goals was to do well in the tournament, but ultimately our end result is to be one of the best teams in the province and then take it from there. There’s still a lot of season left and if we play at the same level we did for most of the tournament, I think We’ll be fine.”
That quest continues Sunday when the Rebels (12-6-3) host the Calgary Royals (7-9-6) at the Arena at 5:40 p.m.