The U15 AAA Red Deer Rebels battled until the end but came up short in their pursuit of a spot in the provincial tournament.
Red Deer faced the Alberta Elite Hockey League’s (AEHL) number-one-seeded Airdrie Xtreme in the division semifinals.
In the three-game series, the Xtreme took Game 1 on Thursday and on Saturday the Rebels lost a close battle 6-4 at Servus Arena.
The loss ended the Rebels’ season and following the game head coach Justin Jarmolicz said he’s proud of his team for how far they’ve come and how hard they battled.
“The whole season if you look where we started to where we are now no one was supposed to push Airdrie all year. We had several one-goal games with them and we just gave them a playoff series that they’ll never get at the provincial tournament,” he said.
The Xtreme was dominant all season long losing only one game during the regular season and in the playoffs, they continued that winning four straight to make it to provincials. Meanwhile, Red Deer entered the playoffs in fifth place and despite that they made Airdrie earn each win.
On Saturday afternoon the Rebels headed into the third period down 4-2. At the beginning of the final frame, the Xtreme scored another goal to extend their lead 5-2.
Eight minutes into the period Nash Nicolay scored on the powerplay to cut into the deficit and just 30 seconds later Kohen Lodge notched the Rebels’ fourth goal of the game.
Red Deer was down just a single goal with plenty of time remaining but late in the period the Xtreme scored to regain their two-goal cushion. The Rebels later pulled their goalie for the extra attacker but Airdrie’s 6-4 lead was too steep to overcome.
Nicolay finished with a pair of goals and Lodge posted a goal and an assist. Rebels Dallin Antos also had a productive day with two assists and goaltender Ryder Cyrenne made 50 saves.
“We didn’t quit,” Jarmolicz said. “We just kept coming and we got chance after chance. We scored a couple and all of a sudden it was on and they just buried us at the end with one. That’s the way it goes sometimes.”
“Hats off to them. We knew that we’d have to play them hard and they played hard back. There’s a lot of good players on that team and you’re going to see a lot of them in junior hockey soon.
“It is a good measuring stick for our guys because there’s no one better than Aidrie right now. I’m proud of our guys because we were with them every step of the way this week.”
The Rebels will lose all but four players ahead of the next season as the remaining kids move up to the next level of hockey. Jarmolicz said he’s looking forward to building a team around that nucleus.