Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Optimist Rebels Make Contact But Settle For Tie

For whatever reason, the Red Deer Optimist Rebels simply weren't themselves to start the game.

But in the end they showed enough of their regular selves to pull out a 2-2 tie versus the Saskatoon Contacts in the opening game at the 2012 Telus Cup in Leduc.

Red Deer Head Coach Doug Quinn said his team did do well to overcome their shaky start.

"I thought we were a little bit nervous in the first period.  We settled in in the second period and created some pressure and had a good third [period]."

Scott Feser, who scored the game-tying goal in the third period, wasn't exactly sure why his team started the game so poorly (the Optimist Rebels trailed 2-0 after the first period).

"It's obviously been a couple weeks since we played a game and it's a pretty big tournament.  So I don't know if a few guys were nervous.  It could be nerves but it's good to get that first one over and I think we should be able to push forward now."

Slow start aside, Monday's game was like many others we've seen throughout the baby Rebels postseason.  It was a game in which they badly outshot (40-18) and outplayed their opponents yet ended up in a tight game.  Playing against a fairly high scoring Contacts team, Quinn was pleased with his squad's defensive play.

"We knew that they had a lot of skill.  We certainly wanted to make sure that we played a pressure game and didn't give them opportunities and space to handle the puck.  I thought for the most part, once we adjusted to their quickness, we did that in the second and third periods."

Josh Uhrich opened the scoring for Saskatoon 6:27 into the game with a well-placed shot that seemingly fooled Red Deer goalie Dasan Sydora (he hardly flinched as the shot went off his shoulder and beat him top shelf).  Rourke Chartier made it 2-0 with a powerplay goal at 15:44.

The Optimist Rebels finally broke through late in the second period on their 26th shot of the game.  Brady Bakke fired on net, Contacts goalie Mack Shields made the save, but Nick Glackin was there to put home the rebound for a shorthanded goal at
15:50.  The goal set the stage for complete Red Deer dominance the rest of the way.

Shields was outstanding between the pipes for Saskatoon.  He did everything he could to try and steal the win for his club.  And it started to look like he would do just that until Feser tipped Cole Berreth's point shot out of mid-air and past Shields
6:16 into the final frame.  Neither team was able to find the go-ahead goal from there and settled for a single point in the standings.

The Optimist Rebels are back in action today at 4pm vs. Moncton.

In other Telus Cup action on Monday...
Phénix du Collège Esther-Blondin beat the Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves 6-2 and the host Leduc Oil Kings knocked off the Moncton Flyers 5-4.


Sticking with our theme from my previous blog... here are my thoughts on how the four Red Deer Rebels prospects fared in yesterday's game (as they auditioned for Rebels assistant coaches Chris Neiszner and Bryce Thoma who were both in attendance)...

Scott Feser, Red Deer (F) - Game-tying goal aside, Feser did a fairly good job of creating scoring chances throughout the game.  He certainly seemed more comfortable versus Saskatoon than he did in either game of the pacific regional final versus Vancouver.  Scott, like the rest of the Optimist Rebels, should look even more comfortable starting today now that the opening game jitters are out of the way.

Scott Ferguson, Red Deer (F) - Personally, I thought Ferguson played the best game out of any forward on the ice.  Every time he was on the ice, Ferguson either had the puck on his stick or was getting it to his line mates for scoring chances.  Scott also used his size (6'0 182lbs) to create havoc in the corners for Saskatoon defenders.  The Optimist Rebels will definitely benefit if Ferguson can maintain a high level of play throughout the rest of the week.

Vukie Mpofu, Saskatoon (D) - While Joel Topping was clearly the best defenceman on the ice for either team, Mpofu definitely led the charge for the Contacts group of bluelines.  I have no official stats, but I'd be willing to bet that Vukie played in excess of 25 minutes in the game.  His small small stature works against him, but Mpofu stood in tough against Optimist Rebels forecheckers.  He also was effective at moving the puck ahead to his forwards.  Speaking with him after the game, Mpofu is happy with how his game has progressed throughout the season, "I think not only myself but a lot of our [Contacts] young players grew a lot.  I think it [qualifying for Telus Cup] has got us really ready to maybe make the jump to the WHL next year."

Rod Southam, Saskatoon (F) - Yesterday's game was not an overly physical affair, which didn't play well into Southam's power forward style.  But he didn't look horribly out of place and didn't hurt himself at all in the way of turnovers and such.  A harder hitting game will help Southam better show off what he has to offer.  Southam told me he is happy with his development this season, having gotten bigger and stronger and quicker on his feet.  He says there is no secret to what his game is all about, "I like to hit and bring the body and be a physical presence out there."

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