The Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs are playing with plenty of confidence this season and their coach said that’s a big reason they are battling for first place in the AMMFHL.
“They understand a lot of what I’m trying to put forth,” said head coach Tom Bast. “They understand me better now and I think that’s helped them immensely.”
Another factor figuring in the team’s success this season is the fact almost 50% of the players are back with Bast for a second year and he has seen a progression in their play.
“They’re getting stronger physically and emotionally so they can understand the ups and downs of adversity and knowing how to deal with it a little bit better,” he said.
The Chiefs are neck and neck with the Calgary Fire to be the top dog and Bast said his goaltending has played a significant role in where the Chiefs currently reside in the standings.
In a league where strong goal tending can be a difference maker the Chiefs have a one/two punch which is the envy of the AMMFHL.
Sarah Murray is second in the league with a GAA of 1.05 while teammate Bailey Knapp has posted a GAA of 1.98.
As far as putting the puck in the net the Chiefs leading goal scorer, Breanna Martin, has 10 goals and six assists in 23 games putting her in 14th place.
Bast said his philosophy has always been defense first as protecting your end of the rink and fore-checking hard in the attacking zone will generate more opportunities to score.
However, the defensive corps for the Chiefs is the catalyst for the offence this season, he said.
“We try to get pucks to the net and our girls know our defense can fire the puck so we get pucks through. We get a lot of greasy goals. We’re not a highfalutin, tic-tac-toe, fancy, bang-bang in the net kind of team.”
He admits if someone had told him back at the start of this campaign this team would be in a first place fight he would have been a bit surprised.
Once again he points at the tandem in net for the Chiefs as the main ingredient in this recipe for success.
“Our goaltenders have given us a chance to win every game. They’ve kept us in until we got our feet under us or we got momentum.”
With net minding a good starting place for winning Bast said his veteran skaters have stepped it up right out of the gate which really got this ball rolling in the right direction.
“I’ve just got a whole bunch of girls that want to play together, want to learn and just try to develop it (winning).”
The Chiefs are also the host team for the 2014/15 Esso Cup in April and Bast said knowing when their season will come to a close helps the team build towards conditioning levels, systems and the roles each player has.
So with the Chiefs already having a spot in national tournament Bast admits there may be times when the foot comes off the gas pedal but he says the girls are hungry to learn and that is an important factor in keeping their eyes on the prize.
“There are some very competitive teams coming up against us and now we’ve got to keep up a level of play so we can sustain winning.”