Chiefs 2 Bobcats 0
With home ice advantage the Red Deer Optimist Chiefs were looking to get off to a good start in the best-of-five Alberta Midget Hockey League final against the Lloydminster Bobcats.
Mission accomplished as they recorded a tough 2-0 victory over the Bobcats before a near full house at the Arena Friday.
“The first game is certainly important as it sets the tempo for the rest of the series,” said Chiefs head coach Doug Quinn. “But then we also know we’re in for a tough game (Sunday) in their rink. They’re a strong, physical team and will be ready to play.”
The Chiefs started strong Friday, and grabbed a 1-0 lead at 12:46 of the first period on a goal by Layne Bensmiller.
“I thought we started well, but they started to push back and started to play more physical and I thought we stepped back a little bit,” said Quinn. “But at the end of the day we did enough good things to win . . . I was happy with the effort.”
The Chiefs lost defenceman Travis Verveda in the first period when he was slammed into the boards from behind. It was only a two-minute boarding call, but most felt it should have been more.
“I thought so, but it’s playoff hockey and it’s going to be physical and tough and we have to deal with it and move on,” said Quinn, who hopes to have Verveda back shortly.
“He banged up his shoulder a little and hopefully he’s back right away.”
The Chiefs held a 15-2 edge in shots in the first period, but it wasn’t until 9:39 of the second period, when Trey deGraaf scored on the power play, that they managed to go up by two.
Despite deGraaf’s marker, Quinn felt the power play could have been better.
“Twice we had a five-on-three and could have put the game away, but didn’t, so it was a little closer than we wanted it to be,” he said.
The Chiefs finished with a 35-14 edge in shots and for the most part did an excellent job of swarming the Lloydminster forwards in the defensive end. The only real problem they had came early in the second period when twice the Bobcats had what looked to be an open net during wild scrambles.
“They certainly have several strong offensive players, but overall we did a good job defensively,” added Quinn, who wasn’t surprised to see a close game.
“One of the things I said after the game was that it’s a typical Red Deer game. We play well enough, get enough shots and scoring chances, but don’t score and in the end find a way to win.”
Jayden Sittler was steady in goal for Red Deer with Austin McGrath in net for the Bobcats.
The teams meet Sunday at 2 p.m. in Lloydminster with the third game Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Arena. If a fourth game is necessary it’s Thursday in Lloydminster with the fifth game, if needed, March 30 at 1:30 p.m., at the Arena.