Vancouver NW Giants 2 - Red Deer Optimist Rebels 3
OPTIMIST REBELS ONE STEP CLOSER TO NATIONAL TITLE
It was close in the end, but the Red Deer Optimist Rebels are into the gold medal game at the 2007 TELUS Cup following a 3-2 win over the Vancouver North West Giants in their semi-final on Saturday night.
The Giants and Optimist Rebels went back-and-forth for much of the opening 20 minutes, but it was Red Deer’s Matt Fraser who got his team on the board first, scoring with just 50 seconds to go in the first period.
“Fraser has played well all week and he had a good goal to get us started,” Optimist Rebels head coach Brent Fudge said after the game. “He has been a big player for us all week, and he was again tonight.”
The Giants wasted no time in getting themselves on the board in the second period, as team captain Matthew Bell capitalized on a Vancouver powerplay to knot the game 1-1.
Red Deer, however, would take back the lead, getting two quick goals from Chase Schaber and Landon Hiebert just 40 seconds apart close to the midway point of the middle frame.
Hiebert’s goal spelled the end for Giants’ goaltender Graeme Gordon, as he was replaced by Kyle Nielsen for the remainder of the game.
The score remained 3-1 for much of the third period until Vancouver turned it on with just under six minutes left.
Not long after Optimist Rebels goaltender Marc Boulanger made a miraculous toe save, which immediately followed a shot off the Red Deer post, Giants defenseman Stefan Elliott’s point shot found its way behind Boulanger, pulling the Pacific Region representatives to within one.
But that was as close as the Giants would get, as Boulanger and the Optimist Rebels’ defense shut the door the rest of the way, sending Red Deer to their first national championship game since making back-to-back appearances in 1994 and 1995.
Cass Mappin, who helped set up Schaber’s goal, was named Player of the Game for the Optimist Rebels, while Elliott picked up the honour for the Giants.
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PREVIEW: OPTIMIST REBELS, GIANTS SET FOR ALL-PACIFIC SEMI-FINAL
The Red Deer Optimist Rebels look to move one step closer to becoming the first host team in 17 years to win the National Midget Championship when they face the Vancouver North West Giants in semi-final action on Saturday night at Red Deer Arena.
The Optimist Rebels got the better of the Giants in their round-robin meeting, riding a third-period outburst and the hot goaltending of TELUS Cup MVP Marc Boulanger to a 5-0 win on Wednesday night.
On Friday night, Red Deer looked more like the team that had steamrolled the competition en route to the TELUS Cup, routing the Séminaire Saint-François Blizzard 6-2. The Optimist Rebels dropped their first game on home ice all season on Thursday, falling 2-0 to the Prince Albert Mintos.
The Optimist Rebels finished second in the round-robin in shots on goal – with 178 – and will need to get a lot of pucks through to whichever Vancouver goaltender gets the call between the pipes in order to generate scoring chances.
The Giants surprised many with their strong round-robin performance, finishing ahead of the powerhouse Blizzard after topping the Quebec champions 4-1 on Thursday afternoon and clinching a semi-final spot with a huge 4-2 win over the St. John’s Maple Leafs on Friday night.
Landon Ferraro is beginning to find his scoring touch for the Pacific representatives, which could cause problems for the Optimist Rebels. Ferraro scored once in Thursday’s win over the Blizzard and twice more on Friday against the Maple Leafs, giving him the team scoring lead with five points (four goals, one assist) in five games.
Vancouver will need to be the team that skated with the Optimist Rebels for the first two periods on Wednesday night, holding them to just a single goal, and not the one that allowed four goals in the first eight minutes of the final period. Red Deer will look to jump out early and silence the suddenly surging Giants, setting off what should be a loud and very pro-Optimist Rebels crowd.