Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Optimist Rebels Fly Past Moncton (sort of)

It's no exaggeration to say that out of the 120 minutes of hockey the Red Deer Optimist Rebels have played at the Telus Cup in Leduc they have dominated at least 110 of them.

The only problem is the scoreboard hasn't reflected that domination.

The baby rebs out shot the Moncton Flyers 43-20 on Tuesday but settled for just a 2-1 victory to improve their round-robin record to 1-0-1.

The first period finished scoreless despite an 11-2 shot advantage for Red Deer.  Brady Bakke finally got his team on the board when the captain scored 6:01 into the second period.  His sizzling wrist shot beat Flyers goaltender Nathan Armstrong and caught a piece of the iron before finding the back of the net.  The goal was a perfect example of what Red Deer needs to do more of according to Bakke... think less and shoot more.

"We're working it way too much, guys trying to get that cute, fancy goal" Bakke admitted after the game.  "These goalies are good but they're not that good.  Rebounds, shots on net, crashing the net.  They'll [goals] come."

Case in point, Jonathan Finnigan's game winning goal with 3:17 left in the third period.  Red Deer won a face-off in the offensive zone and the puck soon after found it's way onto Finnigan's stick.  Without hesitation, he snapped a shot top shelf past Armstrong before the Moncton goaltender had time to think.

"Right now our shooting average is one goal every twenty shots.  That's not very good at this tournament," Bakke pointed out (Red Deer has 4 goals on 83 shots to be exact).  "We can play a lot better, expecially in the offensive zone."

You can be sure that Head Coach Doug Quinn is well aware of his team's scoring woes.  He too feels the Optimist Rebels are trying to do too much.

"Certainly we're getting some shots but we're giving up quality scoring opportunities.  We're trying to work it in right on top of goalies and everybody just collapses around the net... we just gotta shoot it when we get into scoring position."

Five-on-five hockey was a rare occurrence in this game.  Red Deer took a disappointing 10 minor penalties while Moncton was dinged for 12.  The good... the Optimist Rebels were a perfect 10 for 10 when it comes to penalty killing, including a 1:30 5-on-3 situation in the second period.  The bad... they also went 0 for 12 while on the powerplay.

With all that taken into consideration, the Optimist Rebels can feel good about their situation.  They have played some outstanding hockey at times and yet still have plenty of room left for improvement, as echoed in defenceman Joel Topping's postgame comments.

"We've controlled the pace and really established our forecheck and started wearing teams down.  Our conditioning, too, we feel that later on in the tournament is gonna really pay dividends for us.  We've been really happy with the work ethic.  We just need to focus on the execution."

Next up... the Optimist Rebels take on the 2-0 host Leduc Oil Kings tonight at 7:30pm.

** To watch video highlights of each Optimist Rebels game this week - visit


Some thoughts on a few of Red Deer's player and how they fared in Tuesday's game...

BJ Duffin (F) - Despite being the smallest player on the Optimist Rebels roster (he is listed 5'8 and 139lbs) Duffin does a great job of creating scoring chances when on the ice.  BJ's smalls stature helps him maneuver in tight situations deep in offensive zone corners and behind the net.  Moncton defenders had a tough time keeping tabs on Duffin and an even tougher time getting the puck off of his stick.

Stephan Danielson (D) - Playing alongside Topping, it's rare that Danielson gets his share of the accolades for a defense pairing that simply dominates every time they are on the ice.  Danielson is calm and cool when quarterbacking the powerplay and and rarely makes a poor pass coming out of his own zone.  He came close to scoring against Moncton when his seeing-eye wrist shot hit the post early in the third period.

Matt Zentner (G) - A pretty tough challenge for Zentner, who last appeared between the pipes way back during the AMHL regular season.  Unfortunately, he lost his shutout bid just before the final buzzer went off.  Nevertheless, Zentner did what his team asked of him and picked up the 'W.'

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