The annual Mac’s Midget tournament over the holidays can be a measuring stick for midget Triple A hockey teams.
“I was really pleased with the way we played over the first three games,” said Head Coach Doug Quinn with Red Deer’s Optimist Rebels who posted wins in those contests. “The scores were actually a lot closer than they should have been because I thought we played really well defensively.”
The game against the Czech Republic team saw the Rebels get down 4-0 in the first period however, mounting a bit of a comeback only to fall 5-4.
Next up were the Vancouver Giants. Red Deer got off to another poor start with the Giants scoring just 15 seconds into the game forcing the Rebels to battle back from a deficit. At one point Red Deer held a 4-3 lead but defensive miscues allowed the Giants to push ahead and post an 8-5 victory.
“When you play against really talented teams like Vancouver and the Czechs, they really exploited some of the mistakes that we made,” said Quinn.
For a team which prides itself on taking care of its own end those lapses were very frustrating, he said. But there is something to be learned from it all.
“The Macs tournament is a tough tournament to play well in, there’s so many good teams,” he explained, refusing to use that as an excuse for the defensive breakdowns.
“If we want to go to where we want to go we’re going have to play on a big stage and you have to be able to perform in pressure situations and every little mistake does matter.”
The Rebels still lead their division in the AMHL but Quinn says it’s been tougher to stay on top because his team seems to allow other teams to stay close longer, putting them into a situation where a loss is more likely than a win in some cases, he said.
“We just have to continue to develop and work on getting to the dirty areas to score and maybe a higher commitment level is I guess what I’m looking for in the second half,” he said.
Quinn doesn’t like to compare one team against another from year to year but looking at the stats this year’s edition has given up fewer goals per game than the national champs from a season ago. But the goal scoring is way down and Quinn says there is no doubt the high end skill on the forward lines is not the same.
“But saying that, I do have good balance and we may have more team speed than what we had last year. You just kind of work with what you’ve got,” he said. “I know we’re a tough team to play against and I know that we’re competitive with any team I have seen this year.”
Having the defending national champion label doesn’t make anything any easier, he said.
“We’re always playing against the top goalie of each team. They always seem to be a little bit more motivated or energized to play us.”
More goal scoring would help and Quinn says it’s something the coaches are working on with the kids but his overall view is there is still a long way to go and he likes his team’s chances of being there in the end.
“If we play the way we’re capable of we’re going to be a tough team to beat.”