Rebels slay Giants

There’s nothing more dramatic or thrilling than scoring the winning goal in overtime in the deciding game of a playoff series.

Red Deer Optimist Rebel Wyat Haustein skates past Vancouver NW Giants Connor Wilson

Red Deer Optimist Rebel Wyat Haustein skates past Vancouver NW Giants Connor Wilson

Rebels 2 Giants 1 (OT)

There’s nothing more dramatic or thrilling than scoring the winning goal in overtime in the deciding game of a playoff series.

It’s something that will be forever locked in the mind of Red Deer Optimist Rebels talented centre Clayton Petrie, even though he never did see the puck go in the net.

“I didn’t see it go in, I just heard the crowd and everyone was celebrating,” said Petrie, who connected at 3:59 of the first overtime period to give the Rebels a 2-1 victory over the Vancouver Giants and a 2-1 win in the best-of-three Pacific Regional major midget hockey championship.

Petrie’s goal came after some hard work along the boards, by his linemates Justin Faux and Collin Valcourt. Petrie was stationed just outside the edge of the crease to the right of Vancouver netminder Charlie Finn. He was able to corral a bouncing puck and slid home a backhander.

“I thought I scored earlier, but my shot was blocked by Justin,” he said. “But we kept battling and I stayed in front and it finally went in.”

The win capped a comeback in the series by the Rebels, who lost the opening game 7-4 before winning 5-2 Saturday.

The third game may have been the best of the three and kept the over 800 fans on the edge of their seats. The Rebels held an 18-4 edge in shots in the first period but thanks to Finn it remained scoreless. Both teams had a number of excellent chances in the middle stanza before Red Deer’s Nathan Dennis opened the scoring at 16:13, slamming home a loose puck during a scramble. However, the Giants Connor Rankin notched his fourth goal of the series 49 seconds later on a rebound.

The Rebels held a slight edge in play in the third period, then dominated the extra session, outshooting the Giants 6-0.

“We played so well, but so did Vancouver,” said Rebels head coach Doug Quinn. “Both teams gave a maximum effort and fortunately we got a break. We had several good opportunities and finally buried it.”

The fact the Rebels were overall bigger and older than the Giants may have ultimately been the difference.

“At the end of the day I think we eventually wore their defence down a bit,” added Quinn. “We were able to generate a lot of opportunities, but their goaltender was exceptional. But I’m proud of the guys, They played good defence and stuck with the program.”

That’s the only way they were going to win, said Petrie.

“We don’t have any top end players, but everyone goes hard and plays their best and we have unbelievable coaching.”

He also felt they were wearing down the Giants, but he gave them credit.

“They’re a smaller team and we felt if we were physical the whole time we would gain an edge. In the end I think that was a difference, although they kept coming at us and were always going.”

The Rebels were forced to play the game with four defencemen after losing captain Kirsten Odendaal with a broken right collarbone in the third period Saturday.

“Odendaal was a huge loss for us . . . he’s a top, top player,” said Quinn. “But Kris (Dalton) moved into that fourth spot in the rotation and played well.”

Quinn could have moved Troy Klaus back as well, but didn’t want to touch his four lines.

“Troy has been played well up front and we wanted to go with four lines and see how it turned out,” he said. “The guys seemed to hold up.”

But so did the Giants, according to head coach Jon Calvano.

“We’re used to going with four defencemen, so we were OK there. In fact I thought they (Rebels) were getting tired and we were getting some chances on our forecheck. But in the end they won a battle in the corner and we missed a check in front and game over.”

Despite the fact the Giants used eight 15-year-olds and a 14-year-old affiliated player, Calvano wasn’t used that as an excuse.

“Age is no excuse,” he said. “We won our league and won the Mac’s tournament. These kids want to play in the Western League next year and they have to play against 17-year-olds as they’ll be facing 19 and 20 year-olds next year. This was a good education for them,”

The win earned the Rebels a berth in the Telus Cup national championship, April 19-25 in Levis, Que. It was a goal, yet not the first one fo the Rebels this season.

“Our first goal was to win the South Division, our second was to win the league and from there we wanted to go to the Telus Cup,” said Quinn. “Getting there was a big step, so now we have one mindset and that’s to win it.”

Petrie stressed the team didn’t look this far down the road.

“At the beginning of the year we didn’t know what to expect. I don’t think anyone thought about the nationals.”

The Rebels finished with 49 shots on Finn while Mac Engel stopped 26. Engel’s biggest save was one he didn’t even see. He was knocked down and appeared to be hurt late in the third period. However, the official didn’t see it that way and didn’t blow the whistle until after a shot hit Engel in the back as he lay in the crease.

“They bumped into Mac and almost took his head off and there was no whistle and we were fortunate in that the puck hit him,” said Quinn. • Giants defenceman Griffin Reinhart was named series MVP . . . Odendaal received the most dedicated player award.