Rebels 3 Royals 0
Matt Zentner’s return to the Red Deer Optimist Rebels was exactly what the team needed.
He automatically gave them a presence in goal and one who know knows a thing or two about winning a national championship.
Zentner was backup to Dasan Sydora last season, but saw his share of action, including two starts in the Telus Cup.
“I got a chance to play two games and we tied and won and it was a lot of fun,” said Zentner following the Rebels 3-0 win over the Calgary Royals in their Alberta Midget Hockey League home opener at the Arena Sunday afternoon.
“It was nice to be able to come in and chip in. I didn’t get a lot of playing time, but I was happy that Doug (head coach Doug Quinn) gave me an opportunity.”
Zentner was one of three members of this year’s Rebels who celebrated last year’s championship season prior to Sunday’s game. The banner was already up, but a number of players were on hand as a video showed their run to the Cup.
“It was pretty cool to see and good to see a lot of guys back,” said Zentner. “The video was great and the banner looks good.”
The video also brought back a number of fond memories for Quinn. “It was an exciting time and brought back some emotions I was feeling when we won. It was good to see the kids back so they could be part of it. That was a special group and I was happy to share that with them.”
Zentner feels the new players also got a lot out of the ceremony.
“I believe it helps and it shows the expectations of the older guys and coaches as we want to win it again.”
There was a time when Zentner wasn’t sure he would be back with the team.
“I attended Whitecourt’s camp. They’re a new team in the AJHL (Alberta Junior Hockey League) and I was hoping to stay as I was playing well., But they had a netminder come back and they sent me home and I’m happy to be here.”
He’ll get a lot of playing time, which will only help him down the road.
“I hope so,” he said. “I’ve been playing well and this weekend the team played well.”
The Rebels opened on the road Saturday with a 1-1 tie against the Calgary Buffaloes before returning home Sunday.
The six-foot-one Zentner is carrying on from last season.
“I didn’t start well last year as I had a new goalie coach (Peter Friestadt) and we didn’t exactly see things the same, but I began to embrace what Pete wants and it’s working well.”
One thing he did was change his style.
“I used to be a butterfly style goalie, as most bigger goalies are, but Pete transitioned me into a more aggressive, risky style and it’s a lot of fun.”
Zentner also is working with a young defence this season with only Quinn Brown returning.
“We need to communicate and that has to get better,” he said. “We’ll continue to work on that at practice.”
Despite the shutout the Rebels started a bit slow for the second straight game.
“We didn’t engage physically early, but once we started skating and competing we started to take control more and more,” said Quinn. “Saturday was the same.”
After a scoreless first period Sunday the Rebels grabbed a 1-0 lead in the second on a goal by Chris Gerrie.
Chase Thudium made it 2-0 just 24 seconds into the third period with Dustin Gorgi putting the nail in the coffin at 12:38.
The Rebels held a 33-19 edge in shots on goal.
Jacob Schofield scored against the Buffaloes.
The Rebels are on the road for the next five games, beginning Saturday in Sherwood Park.