Sometimes in hockey, no matter how hard a team tries, a hot goaltender can derail any momentum.
That’s what happened to the Red Deer Rebels Friday night at the Centrium.
The comeback Rebels, who gutted out victories when down 1-0 against the Brandon Wheat Kings and 2-0 against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in the round robin of the MasterCard Memorial Cup, couldn’t find that magic Friday night.
This time they fell down 3-0 to the Huskies in the second period. They dug too deep a hole to climb out of against the Canadian Hockey League’s top ranked team.
It wasn’t as though they didn’t try, but at every turn Huskies goalie Chase Marchand was there with numerous key saves.
“We had the scoring chances and the shots on goal to comeback,” said Rebels defenceman Haydn Fleury. “But the bounces weren’t going our way tonight.
“Hats off to (Marchand) tonight, he played unbelievable. Some of the saves he made in the third period gave their team confidence.”
Marchand, who stopped 36 of 37 Rebels shots, didn’t surrender his first goal until 13:34 of the second period when Luke Philp cut the Huskies’ lead to two. Standing at the side of the net, Fleury sent a shot at the net that Philp tipped past Marchand for his second goal of the tournament.
But the Philp goal was all they could get past Marchand. The Huskies rode their hot goaltender to a 3-1 win at the MasterCard Memorial Cup.
The loss eliminates the Rebels from the tournament. The Huskies will play in the final on Sunday against the undefeated London Knights.
“I took the same preparation as before and tried to stick to the gameplan,” said Marchand. “When you have that good positive attitude in the room, it’s easy to play well and have the team play well too.”
Huskies head coach Gilles Bouchard said part of Marchand’s success came from challenging the puck carrier.
“He stayed calm and competed,” said Marchand. “He never gave up in his crease. In every practice this year, he competed hard. That’s Chase Marchand.”
Down 2-0 after the first period, the Rebels applied pressure with reckless abandon for the game’s final 40 minutes. They outshot the Huskies 26-12 in the second and third periods.
A bitter pill to swallow, Rebels head coach Brent Sutter talked about how proud he was of his team in the post-game press conference.
“I don’t think anyone out there thought, with us being hosts and being beaten in the semifinals, that we could play against these top teams,” said Sutter. “We deserved to be in this game tonight and we played with this team, too.
“We made a couple of mistakes in the first period that put us behind. But we didn’t quit. We had great opportunities and quality scoring chances. I thought their goalie was the best player on the ice tonight.”
Two of the Huskies goals came on the power play. Nikolas Brouillard had the insurance goal, tipping in a Francis Perron point shot, in the second while Josh Mahura was in the box for interference. Perron opened the scoring in the first on a one-time shot taking the pass from Timo Meier.
Martins Dzierkals had the Huskies eventual game winner, the game’s only even strength goal, by making a strong play on the puck.
“We’re happy with how we played against Red Deer,” said Bouchard. “Red Deer’s big guys worked very hard and we showed a lot of character today.”
The win puts the Huskies into the final on Sunday against the Knights. The Knights won the round robin game against the Huskies 5-2. Puck drops on the Memorial Cup final at 2:30 p.m. at the Centrium.
Despite the loss, the fans at the Centrium acknowledged the hard work and determination the Rebels put in this season and in the tournament. They sent the Rebels into the summer with a standing ovation.
“It’s been a great tournament,” said Sutter. “We’re certainly very proud of hosting the Memorial Cup. It’s disappointing from a hockey perspective, but the teams who were here were top-notch teams.”