The Red Deer Rebels season came to an end Friday night, though not for lack of trying.
Despite their best efforts, the Rebels couldn’t pull off a third straight come from behind victory as they fell 3-1 to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in the 2016 MasterCard Memorial Cup semi-final, even though they out shot the Huskies 37-27.
“I’m proud of our players. We deserved to be in this game tonight, we had a 2-1 record and we played with this team tonight, too,” said Rebels’ Head Coach/GM Brent Sutter after the game.
Coming into the semi-final game, the host Rebels held the second best record in round robin play, including posting a 5-2 win over the Huskies earlier in the week.
“We made a couple of mistakes in the first period that put us behind. But we didn’t quit, we kept battling and we had some great opportunities,” Sutter said.
An early power-play goal for the Huskies set the tone of the game in the first, as Rouyn-Noranda captain Francis Perron slotted one by Rebels’ goalie Rylan Toth to make it 1-0 halfway through the first.
The Huskies would add another one in the final five minutes of the opening frame to take a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.
“We are very happy with the way we played today. We want to be better game after game and the guys worked hard today,” said Huskies’ Head Coach Gilles Bouchard, noting that the team’s power-play was a big part of the win.
“We were not proud of how we played on the power-play last game. Today our puck movement was better. That was the big one for us about this game, to improve the PP.”
Rouyn-Noranda goaltender Chase Marchand was the difference maker for the QMJHL champions, making 36 saves on 37 shots to lead his team to their first-ever Memorial Cup final berth.
“He challenged the puck carrier. He’s calm and he competed. He competed and he never gave up in his crease,” said Bouchard of Marchand’s play, which earned him first star honours on the evening.
“I thought their goalie was the best player on the ice tonight,” Sutter said.
After the first period, the Rebels went on the offensive, peppering Marchand with shots and maintaining possession inside the offensive zone for the majority of the final 40 minutes.
A power-play goal by Rebels’ captain Luke Philp gave the hosts some hope midway through the second as they drew within a goal of the Huskies, but it proved to be too little too late.
Another power-play marker for the Huskies late in the second period was the final nail in the coffin for the Rebels’ season.
It was a tough loss for the Rebels, many of who will not be returning to the team next season.
“We had a tough start again. I think their goaltending was exceptional tonight. We had a strong push in the second and third and he made some unbelievable saves,” said Rebels’ forward Conner Bleackley.
“I’ve bled Red Deer Rebels my whole career and it’s just too bad we couldn’t hang up a banner. I’ve enjoyed everything about Red Deer from our billets to the organization. We’ll see where the future goes.”
The 2016 MasterCard Memorial Cup final featuring the London Knights and the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies is set to take place this Sunday at 2:30 p.m.