There is no rest for the weary in the MasterCard Memorial Cup.
Still riding an emotional high after a 2-1 overtime win, the Red Deer Rebels (2-1) hit the ice Thursday to prepare for their semifinal match against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (1-2).
The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League winners also laced up the skates.
The Rebels win on Wednesday sent the Brandon Wheat Kings packing and prevented a tiebreaker game on Thursday, giving every team a day off.
Rebels GM/head coach Sutter said the team can’t worry too much about how the Huskies will play, but instead they have to focus on playing Rebels hockey.
“We’ve got to this point by being resilient,” said Sutter. “After having not a great game against London, we weren’t even close to how I felt we could play. Our play rose in the next game (against the Huskies) and then (Wednesday) night we did a real good job.”
When the Huskies and Rebels met in the round robin, it was truly a tale of two games. The Huskies used their speed early and burned the Rebels for two goals in the opening eight minutes.
The Rebels regrouped and scored five unanswered goals. The Huskies came unglued. Team discipline became an issue as the Rouyn-Noranda team was penalized 12 times in the game, leading to nine Rebels power plays. Of those chances, Jake DeBrusk, Adam Helewka and Haydn Fleury all registered man-advantage goals.
“A big key for us is going to be staying disciplined,” said Meier. “Last game we played them, we weren’t disciplined at tall and they took advantage of that. If we stay disciplined and play our game, I don’t think we should have any problems at all.”
Huskies head coach Gilles Bouchard echoed Meier’s comment, saying the team’s focus against the Rebels should be on discipline.
“We have to play the Huskies game,” said Bouchard. “The last game (against London) we played the Huskies game. We have to keep going.
“Against Red Deer we have to play with consistency. In the first game against them we took the lead 2-0, then we fell asleep a little bit.”
Coming into the tournament, the Huskies were the top ranked Canadian Hockey League team, the umbrella league of the three leagues competing in the Memorial Cup.
The Red Deer loss was a low point in the tournament for the Huskies. In their next game, against the London Knights, the team played more to their strengths, speed. They outshot the Knights 32-25 and had 11 power play opportunities, both of their goals came on the power play.
Team captain Francis Perron called his team’s power play “a little lazy,” in the tournament and against London. But he said the second goal, a power-play goal 7:59 into the third period, against London came because the team played harder with the puck.
Conner Bleackley, who had the assist on the game winning goal over the Wheat Kings, noted the Huskies speed on all four lines as something the Rebels will have to handle. Goalie Rylan Toth expects the Huskies to come out hard.
“They’re probably not too happy they’ve lost two in a row,” said Toth.
“It’s do-or-die for both teams.”
With less familiarity between the Huskies and Rebels, Sutter’s attention has honed in on getting his unit to play like they did the last time these teams faced each other.
“We played Brandon enough we knew certain guys we had to keep off the board and shut down,” said Sutter. “It was our type of game.
“For us, it’s focusing on ourselves. We know what they are as a team. They weren’t ranked where they were by not being an outstanding hockey team and winning their league. There are no easy games in this tournament.”
As the second-place team in the round robin, the Rebels will be the home team and get last change. Puck drops on the semifinal between the Rebels and Huskies at 6 p.m. at the Centrium.
The winner of the Huskies vs. Rebels game will face the London Knights on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at the Centrium By then, the Knights will have been off since May 24. The Knights have been head and shoulders above the competition in the tournament, scoring 20 goals and only allowing five.
Four of the top five scorers in the tournament are from the Knights with Mitchell Marner leading the way with 13 points (2g, 11a), then there’s Christian Dvorak (6g, 4a), Matthew Tkachuk (3g, 3a) and Olli Juolevi (6a).
The Knights used an off day to venture over to Banff and do a little sight-seeing.