The Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs Midget Elite team are Red Deer’s golden girls.
After going undefeated in league play since the start of 2017, the Chiefs capped off a dynamite season with provincial gold in Sherwood Park late last month.
“It’s a bit of a cherry on top from the season that the girls had. They worked super hard and they just keep progressing and getting better,” said Sutter Fund Chiefs’ Head Coach Brad Koopmans.
Koopmans’ team posted an impressive undefeated record at the tournament, including a 4-1 win over the Peace Country Storm in the championship final on March 26th.
The Red Deer squad opened round-robin play against Calgary Red, who they battled to a 2-2 tie in the tournament’s opening game.
They followed that up with a 3-1 victory over the Edmonton Pandas the following morning before shutting out the Storm with a huge 3-0 performance that afternoon.
Finally, a 4-0 shutout of the host Sherwood Park Fury in the final round-robin game was enough for the Chiefs to clinch first place in the tournament standings and a spot in the final where they would face a familiar foe in the Peace Country Storm, a team that Koopmans said his squad struggled against all year.
If they were phased by that though the Chiefs sure didn’t show it, as Red Deer didn’t waste any time getting on the board in the Sunday afternoon contest.
Kaylee Sawchuck got the ball rolling mid way through the first period for the Chiefs on a goal assisted by teammate Jenna Hollman.
Seven minutes later Aryn Chambers notched her second goal of the tournament to give the Red Deer side a 2-0 lead late in the first. Peace Country responded quickly though notching a goal of their own to pull within one heading into the first intermission.
From that point on it was all Red Deer on the score sheet, as Juliana Gulayets notched a pair of goals to help lock up the victory for her team.
“Probably the thing that I was proudest of was that they limited Peace River to under 18 shots in that game and it was a testament to our defense-first approach and all the girls played fantastic,” Koopmans said, adding the team got great leadership from captain Shaelynne Bilodeau throughout the tournament.
The team also benefitted from a number of standout individual performances in the tournament.
Chiefs regular season scoring leader Danica Polson tallied two goals and five assists for seven points in five games to lead the tournament in scoring while goaltenders Jayda Thompson and Rebecca Bridge ranked first and second in goals against average with 0.67 and 1.00, respectively.
“After Christmas we regrouped, we reset our goals, we had a number of team meetings as well as video reviews every week just to make sure that we could set attainable goals and then reach them and then set logical goals again and then reach those,” Koopmans said.
“I can’t say it enough, we had such a special group of athletes that were more than willing to do whatever it took to be successful.”
Koopmans added he wanted to thank his coaching staff for all of their help this season.
“The biggest thing this year was probably the commitment, not only of our players but of our coaching staff as well who are all non-parents. They gave up a lot of their time to ensure that they were always there for the girls and they were one of the main reasons why we had the amount of success that we had.”