The Red Deer Optimist Chiefs weren’t lacking for goals in their first Alberta Midget Hockey League regular season game at the Kinex Arena last weekend.
The Chiefs punctuated Head Coach Doug Quinn’s return to the bench in a big way as they romped to a 6-2 victory over the Calgary Northstars in their season opener on Saturday afternoon.
“We’re happy. We didn’t do so hot in our first preseason tournament, but at the end of the day what I’ve told the kids is we’re not trying to be the best team in October. We’re trying to be one of the top teams at the end of the year,” said Quinn, who is back behind the bench for the Chiefs this season after a two year absence.
In his previous stint with the local Midget AAA club, Quinn was instrumental in turning the Optimist Chiefs into one of the top midget hockey programs in Canada, leading the club to five straight provincial championships and two straight Telus Cup national titles in 2012 and 2013.
Joining the prolific skipper behind the bench this season are assistant coaches Al Parada, Rob Hamill, Mike Moller and Stephen Pattison along with goalie coach Peter Friestad, all of who were part of Quinn’s coaching staff during his previous run.
“I think for me, I missed it. And I think our whole group. We needed a break and everything but we have so much fun with it and we enjoy working with the kids,” Quinn said.
It didn’t take long for the Optimist Chiefs to welcome their old bench boss back on Saturday. After trading chances with the Northstars for the majority of the first period, Red Deer forward Josh McNeil got the party started for the home side as he shovelled a rebound past Northstars goalie CJ Wedenig to put his team up 1-0.
Less than a minute later, returning defenseman Adam Sandstrom doubled that score with a rocket from the point to give his club a 2-0 lead.
A quick last minute goal by the Northstars cut that lead in half heading into the first intermission, but Quinn said the team didn’t get too worried about that.
“We talk about how we create a lot of pressure on the other team’s defense and a lot of times the reward isn’t in the first period. We try to wear teams out and what you do in the first and second period sometimes you gain the benefit of in the third period,” he noted.
A scoring explosion halfway through the second period saw the score jump to 4-2 for the Chiefs heading into the third and the home side never looked back.
Goaltender Justin Travis turned aside all but two of the 22 shots directed his way while forward Tyrees Goodrunning added a pair of third period goals to the assist he got in the second to secure the win for the Optimist Chiefs. Final score – 6-2.
“We play a certain style and we like to create a lot of pressure, which creates a lot of turnovers and ultimately a lot of scoring opportunities,” Quinn said, adding he doesn’t want to get too far ahead of himself in terms of what the win means for the season. “It’s a process that we’re working on. We’re just trying to develop all of the kids and hopefully we’re peaking at the end of the year.”
The Optimist Chiefs followed up on their big win on Saturday with another 6-2 victory, this time on the road against the Calgary Royals on Sunday afternoon.
The game was the first of a three game road trip for the Chiefs that will finish up next weekend as they visit the MLAC Beverly Optimists and the Grand Peace Ernies Sports Storm on Saturday and Sunday.
They’ll be back in Red Deer on Oct. 15th as they host the CAC Gregg Distributors at the Kinex Arena in the first game of a five game homestand. Puck drop on that one is at 4:30 p.m.