A double overtime loss in the deciding game of the Alberta Midget Hockey League quarter finals wasn’t quite the way the Red Deer Optimist Chiefs wanted to end their season.
The Chiefs (19-5-10) saw their playoff hopes come to an end at the hands of the Calgary Flames (20-12-2) in Midget AAA action at the Kinex Arena on Saturday afternoon, dropping a 3-2 decision in the third and final game of their best-of-three quarter-final matchup.
“Certainly we were disappointed in the result. I was happy with the effort. I thought we competed hard and unfortunately in the short series it doesn’t take much. We had opportunities to win the game and win the series but we just couldn’t seem to get that goal when we needed it,” said Optimist Chiefs Head Coach Doug Quinn.
It was a game that, like the series, went right down to the wire with Red Deer and Calgary tied 1-1 heading into the third period.
An early goal by Red Deer’s Adam Sandstrom just three minutes into the final frame stood as the potential game winner until the last two minutes when Calgary’s Noah Walters scored to send it into overtime.
It took 27 minutes of extra time to find a winner but eventually Calgary’s Logan Shaw scored to seal the deal.
Flames’ goalie Benjamin Howard turned aside 49 of the 52 shots he faced to record the victory while Red Deer keeper Tyrees Goodrunning made 36 stops on 38 shots.
“I think we had 52 shots and we only scored two goals. Sometimes it just goes that way. You get good goaltending or you just can’t finish off some of the plays. Anything can happen in overtime,” Quinn said.
Things were looking good for the Chiefs in the early goings of the series, winning game one 4-2 at home to take the early lead.
“We certainly played really well in the first game. I thought that we worked hard and dominated most of that game,” Quinn said.
The Flames battled back, though, and claimed a 5-2 win in game two in Calgary to push the short series to the brink.
“I didn’t like our effort in Calgary. We just didn’t seem to skate the way that we’re capable of. We weren’t as sharp or as focused. We got behind 2-0 early and then we battled back to make it 2-2 going into the third period. It just seemed like when they scored their third goal to go up we just kind of fell apart,” Quinn said, noting that the Chiefs were also not able to convert on a lengthy four-minute power play to tie up the game, which could have made all the difference.
“Next thing you know they score a power play goal — we took some silly penalties — and then an empty netter.”
Quinn said despite the early playoff exit, the team had a strong year overall.
“We were arguably the best defensive team in the league but again the problem that we had in the playoffs was still the problem that we had during the year where we work hard in games and we just couldn’t get that next goal to get control of it. I think that’s why we had so many ties. There’s hardly a game all year that I didn’t think that we had a chance to win,” said the veteran coach, adding that he’s happy he returned to coach the Chiefs this season.
“Coming back this year with my group of coaches, we certainly had a lot of fun with the kids. It was a great year. We definitely would have liked to play for longer but saying that the experience was positive and my group’s looking forward to doing it again next year.”
Meanwhile, the Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs (21-2-1) are looking to finish strong after clinching the top spot in the Alberta Female Hockey League Midget Elite North Division this past weekend.
The Chiefs finished the second last weekend of the season with a 3-1 win over the Lethbridge Cyclones and a 1-1 shootout tie against Calgary Fire Red.
They are back in action this coming weekend as they travel to Calgary to take on Calgary Fire White on Saturday evening before returning home to the Kinsmen Twin Arenas to host the North Central Impact in their final regular season game. Puck drop on that one is at 1:45 p.m.