The Rebels extremely successful inaugural season came to a sad end last night as the East Division champions lost 3 – 0 to the Midwest Division champions Fairbanks Ice Dogs and were swept in this best of three series two games to none. Fairbanks now will play the Wichita Falls Wildcats for the North American Hockey League’s Robertson Cup Championship on Sunday.
The team can hold its head up high. It was a valiant effort but, unfortunately, it came up short. Make no mistake about it: Rebels goalie Darion Hanson stood on his head to keep his team in the game. Despite the loss, he played spectacular!
After feeling each other out for most of the first period, the Ice Dogs took advantage of a Rebels turnover at the top of their zone. Clay Cross intercepted the outlet pass and forwarded the puck onto Tyler Tomberlin. Tomberlin found Reggie Lutz who took a shot that was initially saved by Hanson. But Lutz picked up his own rebound and shot it passed Hanson to put the Ice Dogs up 1 – 0 at 9:14 into the first period. It was the eventual game winner. The Ice Dogs outshot the Rebels 13 – 8 in the opening period but Hanson was severely tested, in fact making an incredible glove save to keep the game close.
The second period was no different from the first or even the first game. It was an end-to-end, tight checking game. With four minutes left in the middle stanza, Cross brought the puck into the Rebels zone and passed it Lutz. Lutz skated around the net and wrapped it around and into the net passed Hanson to put the Ice Dogs up 2 – 0. It was Lutz’s second goal of the evening and fourth in the semi-finals.
With their season on the line, the Rebels came out strong to start the third period but Fairbanks goalie Gavin Nieto made some nice saves to keep the Rebels off the board. Then with three minutes left Hanson was pulled for the extra attacker. With the Rebels trying to set up in the Ice Dogs zone, Tomberlin intercepted a Rebels pass and shot it down into an empty net to seal the 3 – 0 victory.
Nieto stopped all 25 shots he faced while Hanson saved 25 of the 27 shots. Click here for the box score.
It was a great season! The coaching staff did an outstanding job preparing the team all year. It was a great group of guys who truly liked each other and gave it all they had. The team will have 11 players age out but will have eight to nine players returning for next season to help the team defend its East Division championship and, hopefully, hoist the Robertson Cup this time next year.