Rebels, Huskies Primed For Semi-Final
The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies are confident the Red Deer Rebels didn’t see the best of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champions last Sunday.
The Rebels gave up two early goals but took charge from there and skated past the Huskies 5-2 in Memorial Cup round-robin play.
The 2-1 Rebels and 1-2 Huskies will clash again Friday in the tournament semifinal, the winner of which will meet the 3-0 London Knights in Sunday’s 2:30 p.m. championship game.
The Huskies opened the tournament with a 5-3 win over Brandon, then lost to Red Deer 24 hours later and came out on the short end of a 5-2 count versus the Knights Tuesday.
Rouyn-Noranda GM/head coach Gillies Bouchard said Thursday that his club’s performance — at least five-on-five — against London was more acceptable than was the case versus the Rebels.
“The first game against them (Rebels) we take the lead two zero and after that we fall asleep a little bit,” said Bouchard. “It is all about mindset. If that mindset is good we play 60 minutes. Against London the mindset of the players was good. If we take the lead two zero against London we keep going for sure.
“Against Red Deer the mindset was not good, the preparation. That is the reason we let them play against us.”
Whether the Huskies will present this club with a different look in the semifinal is of no concern to Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter.
“I know we played well and we can’t worry about what Quebec is going to bring,” he said. “I know how we have to play and our standards and what’s acceptable for us.”
The Rebels were 6-2 losers to London in the tournament opener last Friday and after falling behind 2-0 to the Huskies, have been a different team since.
“We’ve gotten to this point because we’ve been resilient after having not a great game in our first game,” he said. “No disrespect toward London but we weren’t even close to how I know we can play.
“Then our play rose in the next game and we played real well last night (versus Brandon) by playing within the game. We played things tight, we knew there were certain guys we had to shut down.
“It was our type of game, you throw the puck at the net and get a rebound and win quickly in overtime. We accomplished what we needed to, now it’s about focusing on ourselves.”
That being said, Sutter has the utmost respect for the Huskies as he does for all three of the outside teams.
“We know what they are as a team. Obviously they weren’t ranked where they were (No. 1 in the CHL) by not being an outstanding hockey team and winning their league,” said the Rebels boss.
“There are no easy games in this tournament. We except them to be at their best and expect ourselves to be our best.”
The Rebels potted three power-play goals in their first meeting with the Huskies.
“A big key for us (in the semifinal) will be to stay disciplined,” said Rouyn-Noranda defenceman Philippe Myers. “The last game we played them we weren’t disciplined at all and they took advantage of that.
“If we stay disciplined and play our game I don’t think we should have any problems tomorrow.”
Bouchard wasn’t expressing the same profound confidence as Myers, but insisted that his players will have to perform with consistency as well as play within the team’s identity, which revolves around speed and puck movement.
“We don’t want players to think too much,” he said. “We have to play the Huskies game. The last game (versus London) we played the Huskies game and we have to keep going and continue in that way.”
Their conquest of the Wheat Kings was a hoot for the Rebels, but less than 24 hours later forward Conner Bleackley, who set up Evan Polei’s OT winner, said he and his teammates were back on level ground.
He also insisted the Rebels can play at an even higher level than was the case against Brandon.
“You can’t get too high. We’re a confident group and everyone is just excited for what is ahead,” he stated. “But we’re going to have to be better (in the semifinal) than we were last night and we know that.
“(The Huskies) are pretty fast up front, they have some forwards with tremendous speed. They have a pretty good defence back there and a big goalie.
“We played them real well. Obviously we want a better start than we had the first game against them but I felt that was our best 50 minutes of the tournament so far and we’re going to have to be that good, if not better tomorrow.”
Red Deer fans have been loud and proud during the tournament and there is no reason to suggest the atmosphere inside the Centrium will change Friday.
“It’s pretty exciting for us players to have a crowd behind us like that,” said Bleackley. “It gives us a bit of an edge.
“Just walking around the rink it’s pretty cool to see and hear all the volunteers wishing us luck. Everybody is wishing us luck and all the best. There’s a bit of a buzz and it just keeps growing.”