To repeat as a champion at any level of sport is difficult and to win on a national stage three times in a row is really pushing it but that’s the prospect facing the Red Deer Midget AAA Optimist Chiefs this season.
Head Coach Doug Quinn has another group of teenagers ready to take on the task of following the same path as the last two teams which have claimed the national title in back-to-back years.
“Certainly every year that’s our ultimate goal, to at least be competitive for our championship,” he said. “You never know how each team is going to come together.”
He said last year’s team around this time of the year was not feeling very confident about the chances of winning the title once again let alone getting the chance but they came together and managed to win the crown.
The nature of amateur sports means the Red Deer team will be comprised of so many new faces ready to take on the job of getting back to that final game and of course each team has a different dynamic to it given the personnel taking to the ice.
“This year’s team right now, we certainly look like we have got a little more offensive skill than what we had last year,” he said. “We’re a fast skating team and we’ve got some decent size.”
He still feels there needs to be some good solid work done in tightening up things in the defensive zone and to continue developing a trademark of the Red Deer teams which has been their work ethic. “That’s something we’ve had here year after year is a team that works harder than anybody.”
As for the defensive zone Quinn likes the fact he has a veteran presence on defense in Gabe Bast and in goal with Jayden Sittler, both of whom are well aware of the effort it took from last year’s team to get to the final and win it all.
“We’re lucky to have Jayden back this year. I wasn’t really expecting him to be here,” said Quinn. “I think he saw the opportunities that Matt Zentner (last year’s goalie) had when he came back, stepped up in the playoffs and had a big part in our championship run. I think Jayden’s looking for the same opportunity to carry this team.”
While the chess pieces moving around the board change from year to year there is a constant basic foundation this very successful program is looking for year after year which includes that work ethic and the commitment to be the best, he said.
“But having said that we as coaches have to look at the type of players that we have and we have to adapt a little bit to what we’re given and adjust.”
One advantage this crop of players has this year is being able to learn from former NHL’er Trent Hunter.
The New York Islander has come back to where he was a part of the midget program under Brian Sutter to share his pro experience with the players.
The bottom line here for Quinn though is for the players and the coaches to put in the work and see what the end result will be come the springtime.