Jensen Zerban’s shorthanded goal 6:36 into the second period gave the Rebels a 1 – 0 win over the Minnesota Wilderness. Netminder Jack Leavy stopped all 26 shots he faced and had to make several Grade A saves to keep the Wilderness off the scoreboard.
Could it be deja vu? Last season the Rebels opened the NAHL’s league showcase with a 4 – 0 win over the Janesville Jets and the team went to the Robertson Cup finals. Could history repeat itself? The Rebels hope so but it was only one game.
Most of the first period was a feeling out process, which was to be expected considering it was the first league game for both teams. The play ebbed and flowed with some miscues but each team had their scoring chances but Leavy and his counterpart, and former Rebel, Trevor Micucci, had to make key saves to keep their respective team in the game.
As the second period began, Rebels rookie defenseman Bryant Gunn was called for interference with 15:28 into the middle stanza putting the Wilderness on the powerplay. Wilderness forward Nick Altmann brought the puck up the near side boards. He passed the puck to Luke Dowd on his right. Dowd entered the Rebels zone but defenseman Kolby Vegara forced Dowd to make an errant drop pass that was picked up by Zerban and the speedy forward skated down the far side boards. As he entered the offensive zone he cut across the goalmouth and slid the puck between Micucci’s legs to put the Rebels up 1 – 0 at the 6:36 mark of the second.
Each team had their chances in the second but Micucci and Leavy both had to make three Grade A saves to keep it a 1 – 0 game.
With the Rebels controlling most of the third period, the Wilderness started to apply heavy pressure in the Rebels zone with time winding down. With pressure mounting Leavy had to make a key point-blank range save with 2:44 remaining. After pulling Micucci for the extra attacker, Minnesota mounted their last-ditch effort to tie the game. With 28 seconds left Minnesota entered the offensive zone on an odd made rush but the left winger took a slapshot that forced Leavy to make a windmill glove save to preserve the shutout.
Last season Leavy had six shutouts. It was a good start to this season. Micucci turned aside 25 of the 26 shots he faced. Click here for the box score.
The Rebels will play last year’s Robertson Cup semi-final foe the Aberdeen Wings in game two of the NAHL’s Showcase tomorrow at 5:15pm ET.