CALGARY – The Red Deer Optimist Rebels made the necessary adjustments to playing in a confined space on Sunday afternoon and are now one win away from advancing to the Alberta Midget Hockey League semifinals.
The Optimist Rebels hung on for a 3-2 win over the Calgary Royals at the cramped Stu Peppard Arena to grab a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five South Division semifinal. Game 3 is set for Tuesday at 7:15 p.m. at the Red Deer Arena.
“Games in that rink (Stu Peppard) are a lot more physical and there’s really no room to handle the puck,” said Rebels head coach Doug Quinn. “Today it was about getting our kids kind of in the mindset to realize that they have to make quick decisions, and that the game would be physical.
I thought we adjusted really well. We had a strong first period, then we were a little shaky at the start of the second before settling in.”
The visitors led 3-1 on goals by Nick Glackin, Dylan Hollman and Conner Hartley, before the Royals notched a late power-play marker and made a big push for the equalizer.
“The only thing I wasn’t happy about was that we took a lot of really silly penalties . . . hooking, holding, penalties like that,” said Quinn. “They (Royals) have a really dangerous power play and got a late goal. We were able to hang on, but it was a little nerve-wracking for the last minute and a half.”
Quinn praised netminder Tanner Jaillet, who turned in a 23-save performance. Bolton Pouliot stopped 15 shots for the Royals.
With a win Tuesday, the Optimist Rebels will have extra time to rest for the South Division final against either the UFA Bisons or Calgary Flames.
“Ending the series on Tuesday is going to be our goal and our mindset,” said Quinn. “To go back into that rink (Stu Peppard) . . . anything can happen. We’ll prepare for Tuesday night, come out with our best effort and try and end this series.”