It wasn't like Dasan Sydora needed to prove himself, again. But he did, again.
The diminutive goaltender was superb in making 29 saves for the Red Deer Optimist Rebels in their 2-0 semifinals win over the Saskatoon Contacts at the 2012 Telus Cup in Leduc. Sydora stands just 5'8 tall but seems to grow about a foot taller whenever he stands between the pipes for his club.
"They're awesome to play in," Sydora said following the win. "Nothing can compare to the do-or-die games."
Named as the Telus Cup's Top Goaltender when the tournament awards were handed out last night, Sydora's shutout was his sixth, yes sixth, of the playoffs. He recorded four doughnuts during the AMHL playoffs and one versus Vancouver in the pacific regional final.
"He is the perfect goalie for our team," Optimist Rebels Head Coach Doug Quinn explained. "We don't give up usually a ton of scoring opportunities. But when we do they are usually high quality and Dasan was outstanding today."
Red Deer Captain Brady Bakke was also quick to praise his goaltender one more time.
"You can screw up and he'll be there for you. But we gotta give him a little more support in the third period tomorrow and we can pull this out for him."
Never was that more true than in the third period of today's semifinal win. Sydora was repeatedly called on to turn aside a series of point blank Saskatoon scoring chances (and was almost called on to face a penalty shot until the referee opted to give Red Deer d-man Stephan Danielson a slashing minor instead.) He was also on his game throughout the second period making saves on shots he didn't even see. Good reflexes definitely pay off sometimes.
At the other end of the rink, Saskatoon goaltender and Calgary Hitmen prospect Mack Shields was equally as outstanding as Sydora. He did his absolute best to keep the Contacts in this one in the face of some relentless pressure from Rebels forwards. Ironically, the lone mistake he made in this game proved costly.
It came in the opening minutes of the second period. Nick Glackin pushed over to Quinn Brown who unleashed a point shot on which Shields made the save. Unfortunately for him, the rebound landed right on the stick of Red Deer Captain Brady Bakke who made no mistake firing the puck into the net for a 1-0 lead.
"Brown made a good play at the point, keeping the puck in," Bakke said in describing his game winning goal. "I just kinda stayed behind and all their guys left the zone and I was wide open and was able to get the rebound."
The insurance goal for the Optimist Rebels did not come until the dying minutes of the third period. Just after a Red Deer powerplay had expired, Joel Topping fired a seeing-eye wrister toward the net. Scott Ferguson got the toe of his stick blade on it to chip it passed a screened Shields with 1:18 to go. The Rebels were off and running to the final. The Contacts were left running back to Saskatoon.
(Sorry, I had to sneak in that Guess Who reference at some point haha. In fairness, the Contacts do get to play in the bronze medal game before heading home.)
Now that the semifinal is in the books, the Optimist Rebels are faced with a one game showdown for all the marbles. It's the one game, the Telus Cup Final, they have been preparing themselves for all season long.
"Nerves are gonna be full on tonight and tomorrow," Bakke admitted. "We're [going to be] on TSN, the show every hockey fan and every sports fan watches. It's gonna be a lot of nerves and it's going to be exciting at the same time. Adrenaline will be pumping for sure."
Doug Quinn is right where he wants to be as well.
"We just wanted a chance. We've got to the final game and that's all we can ask. We're gonna go out there and do our best and whatever happens happens. We're satisfied with the year."
Ideally for Quinn he'll be saying that again tomorrow with a gold medal around his neck.
This will be Red Deer's fourth appearance in the final game. In each of the previous three appearances (1994, 1995, 2007) Red Deer settled for silver. Heartbreak came in double overtime in both 94 and 07 (on home ice).
This time around they will be battling Phénix du Collège Esther-Blondin after their semifinal win over the host Leduc Oil Kings. Game time Sunday afternoon is 2:30pm. (For a refresher, check out my writeup following their round robin battle from this past Thursday.)
** If you haven't done so already... make your way over to www.imediatv.ca/sports/teluscup
to watch the highlights of each of Red Deer's games this week. Rene will have highlights from the semifinal win up and running tomorrow morning