It was a sea of red Monday evening at the Red Deer Arena as the Red Deer Major Midget ‘AAA’ Sutter Fund Chiefs took on the Edmonton Thunder in the second game of the Esso Cup national championships.
The electrifying chant of “Go Chiefs Go!” bellowed from the crowd of around 600 fans sporting their red gear in support of their team as the Esso Cup’s own ‘Battle of Alberta’ unfolded.
As the only two teams from Alberta competing in the Cup, the Chiefs and the Thunder were no strangers after having come up against one another in their respective league championships.
While the Chiefs may have fallen short in their provincial battle, losing out to the Thunder at the end of their season – it was a bittersweet victory Monday evening after the Chiefs conquered 2-0.
The Chiefs also took on the Sudbury Lady Wolves Tuesday night, but as of press time the outcome of the game was not known.
Head Coach for the Chiefs Tom Bast said dedication and determination were responsible for the back-to-back wins their team had taken following Sunday night’s victory against Moncton.
“There’s certainly been some pressure, usually with host teams that’s what they are there to do is host and they don’t usually win,” explained Bast. “Our objective is to win – we’ve worked hard this year and it’s been an incredible journey filled with ups and downs but the girls know how important it is to work hard.
“They are well schooled and well disciplined and we have pushed them and prepared them as well as we possibly could.”
And win they have, thanks in part to a keen game of goalkeeping from Chief Sarah Murray, who shut out the Thunder by stopping the over 40 shots that came her way.
“She really kept us in the game,” said Bast. “She is so dedicated and committed and when you have any athlete that committed and who wants to be the best then you’re going to see that on the ice.
“She is so focused and very driven – kudos to her because she has been that way for us all year.”
Strong goaltending wasn’t the only reason behind the Chief’s prevail over the Thunder, with two strong goals coming first from Jordyn Burgar early in the first period, following by one from Abagael Thiessen.
Currently Hockey Canada has both Thiessen and Murray listed among the tournaments ‘Players To Watch’ lists alongside Chief Mairead Bast.
As of Tuesday at noon, the Chiefs were tied at six points in the elite tournament next to the Sudbury, Ontario-based Lady Wolves, who appear to be taking on the roll of the Chiefs rivals in the tournament following their wins first against the Saskatoon Stars 3-2 and then against the Moncton Rockets 9-1.
From an administration standpoint, Red Deer Minor Hockey President Todd Thiessen said that as hosts Red Deer is breaking records with the number of tickets sold thus far in comparison to the last two years of the Esso Cup which were hosted in Hamilton in 2014 and Burnaby in 2015.
“I knew we were going to have a good team and we have the advantage of being able to play on our home ice in front of our own crowd of fans,” said Todd, on his excitement to be able to host the Cup. “The energy has been unreal from our crowds and we’ve had immense support from local schools in bringing their students to watch lunchtime games.
“There truly is no better way to promote female hockey than hosting this level of tournament and it is certainly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
The Chief’s will continue their road to hoisting the Cup this week with Wednesday night’s game against the Saskatoon Stars at 7 p.m. and Thursday’s game against the Central Plains Capitals at 7 p.m. in hopes of making it to Friday’s semi-finals and again on to Saturday’s finals.
For more information and to keep up to date on scores and game times visit, www.hockeycanada.ca