There were tears of joy, mixed inevitably with a bit of sorrow for the Red Deer Bantam AAA Rebels.
While the season had abruptly come to an end, as announced by Hockey Canada Thursday shortly before puck drop that all hockey activities were canceled as of March 13, the Rebels still wanted to play.
They were slated to host a do-or-die Game 5 in their Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League regional final series, one that featured an epic battle with the Calgary AAA Flames.
Red Deer won the first two games of the series but lost alternate captain Chase Walker to injury, then lost Game 3 in overtime and Game 4 by a goal to set up the do-or-die match at Servus Arena.
The show went on Thursday night and delivered on top-quality entertainment that had been the case for the rest of the series. In the end, Red Deer picked up a 2-1 victory and closed out their season as the regional champs.
“It was just like the rest of the series, it was tight with really no room to breathe for either team. It always feels good when you win those hard-fought battles. It can go either way and you find a way to win,” Rebels head coach Justin Jarmolicz said.
“That series is the most intense series I’ve ever been a part of.”
Josh Perreault played hero for the Rebels, scoring the game-winning goal on the power play in the third period. Colby Joyce had a second period tally for Red Deer, with Justice Christensen, Talon Brigley, Quinn Sampson-Goodman and Rhett Miller drawing assists in the victory. Brock Lott made 21 saves to earn the win, while Alex Scheiwiller was stellar for Calgary with 33 stops.
Jarmolicz said he was remarkably proud of the effort from his team not only in the series, but on the season as a whole. He said it was their work ethic that made them stand out above the rest.
“I’m extremely proud of those kids. They worked so hard. I tell them that fairly frequently, that no one in Bantam hockey in Western Canada works as hard as they do, on and off the ice, to be good at what they’re doing” he said.
“It shows when they get out on the ice. They rallied around each other and showed they cared about each other. I couldn’t be more proud.”
Hockey Canada canceled all hockey activity across the province in an announcement Thursday night and in doing so, ended the Bantam AAA Rebels season. They finished the regular season with a 28-2-3 record and only lost twice in the playoffs.