Optimist Rebels blank top-ranked Bobcats

If the Red Deer Optimist Rebels didn’t believe they could handle any team in the Alberta Midget Hockey League they do now.

Red Deer Optimist Rebel Connor Hartley is chased down by Lloydminster Bobcat Kenny Morrison during the Rebels 4-0 win on Friday.

Red Deer Optimist Rebel Connor Hartley is chased down by Lloydminster Bobcat Kenny Morrison during the Rebels 4-0 win on Friday.

Rebels 4 Bobcats 0

If the Red Deer Optimist Rebels didn’t believe they could handle any team in the Alberta Midget Hockey League they do now.

The Rebels turned in a near perfect performance in downing the North Division leading Lloydminster Bobcats 4-0 at the Arena Friday.

“We talked about this game in that it was a good measuring stick for us to see where we’re at,” said Rebels head coach Doug Quinn. “What I liked about what I saw was that we did some of the things we worked on in practice like a strong forecheck while making sure we were coming back. As a result we didn’t give them much opportunity to get into the game.”

After a scoreless first period the Rebels used the power play to grab a 2-0 lead in the middle stanza on goals by Nathan Dennis and Justin Faux. The Rebels then put the game away early in the final period. Brett Printz scored while shorthanded at 1:19, stealing the puck at the side of the Lloydminster net and beating goaltender Connor Creech between the legs. Collin Valcourt scored a beauty to make it 4-0 at 2:24 when he broke down the left wing, cut around a defenceman and beat Creech.

The fact the Rebels spread the scoring around is nothing new. They’re one of the top scoring teams in the league, yet don’t have anyone near the top of the scoring race.

“We like to roll four lines a lot of the time,” said Quinn. “Tonight we changed our lines up slightly, which gave us more balance and more energy, I was happy with that.”

He was also happy with the defence, which was especially solid in the third period when the Rebels ran into a little penalty trouble.

“Collectively as a group this was the best game for the defence all year,” Quinn said. “They’ve struggled some games, but they played with a lot of energy and confidence.”

So did goaltender Mac Engel, who finished with 25 saves while his mates had 18 shots on Creech and Tyler Briggs, who came in following the fourth Red Deer goal.

“Mac has been good for us all season,” added Quinn.

“He was an all-star and played like that tonight. When we needed a big save he made it.”

The win gave the Rebels an 18-7-4 record and left them four points ahead of the Calgary Buffaloes in the battle for top spot in the South and with two games in hand.

As they close in on the end of the regular season, Quinn likes where his team’s at.

“For the most part I’m happy,” he said. “We’ve been continually getting better throughout the year. We had a strong Mac’s tournament and have built on that. We did have a bit of a letdown last game (a 5-3 loss to Leduc), but that was a wake up call. We have to play a certain style with a certain intensity or any team in this league can beat you.”

The Rebels haven’t sewed up top spot, but it’s getting closer.

“One of our goals was to finish in the top two in the south and get that first round bye, which allows us a chance to get healthy,” added Quinn.

The Rebels next home action is Feb. 5 against the Calgary Flames.

drode@bprda.wpengine.com