Optimist Rebels use defensive strength again, to defeat Royals

All one has to do is look at the Alberta Midget Hockey League standings to get an indication as to why the Red Deer Optimist Rebels are sitting on top of their division.

Rebels 3 Royals 2

All one has to do is look at the Alberta Midget Hockey League standings to get an indication as to why the Red Deer Optimist Rebels are sitting on top of their division.

Despite struggling to score at times, they still lead the league in goals for and even more important lead in goals against.

Their defensive strength proved to be a major reason for a 3-2 victory over the Calgary Royals at the Arena Sunday afternoon.

“We’ve had a number of games like this where we played well defensively and limited a team to few shots,” said Rebels head coach Doug Quinn.

The Royals managed just 15 shots on goaltender Matt Zentner, who made an outstanding save in the final seconds to preserve the victory.

“Matt had a slow start to the season, but he’s been really strong over the last two months,” said Quinn, who splits goaltending duties between Zentner and Dasan Sydora.

“It’s a good feeling for a coach when it doesn’t matter which goalie you use as they’re both playing really well. You can see that in our goals against, which is the best in the league.

“We don’t give up many shots and when we do it’s usually the high quality kind, but our goalies have been there.”

Zentner came into the team this year after being selected as the top player in the Alberta Minor Midget AAA League last season while Sydora is the South Division all-star goalie for the All-Star game Feb. 5 in Edmonton.

Brendan Dennis, BJ Duffin and Nick Glackin scored once each for the Rebels while Stephan Doane had both goals for the Royals.

The Rebels finished with 35 shots on goaltender Julien Favreau.

“Sometimes we have a hard time scoring, but today you had to give them credit,” continued Quinn.

“We knew they’d be tough as they’re a similar team to last year’s team we played in the playoffs. They changed coaches and got off to a slow start, which shows in their record (12-16-0), which is deceiving. They work hard and have a lot of discipline and their systems took away a lot of ice from us, so it was a defensive battle.”

Quinn also gave credit to goaltender Favreau.

“We had some opportunities and didn’t capitalize, but their goalie played real well and they blocked a lot of shots.”

The Rebels, 21-5-3, had a week off since their last game and will have close to two weeks off before facing the Royals once again in Calgary on Feb. 3. The time off couldn’t come at a better time.

“We were going hard before Christmas and than at the Mac’s (tournament), so the time off gave us a chance to work on some systems such as the power play and penalty kill,” said Quinn.

“It also gave us time to get healthy as we’re down a few guys with serious injuries.”

Forwards Dylan Thudium and Brady Bakke have knee injuries and forward Jon Finnigan is out with a separated shoulder.

• The teams split eight minor penalties . . . Defenceman Joel Topping and forwards Scott Feser and Logan Fisher will also play in the all-star game, along with the Red Deer coaching staff.

drode@bprda.wpengine.com

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