The Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs have their first bit of adversity to deal with at the Esso Cup.
The female midget AAA national championship hosts were mauled 7-2 by Ontario champion Sudbury Lady Wolves (3-0-0-0) on Tuesday night at the Red Deer Arena.
The Wolves were led by Melisa Kingsley’s five-point night, which included a second period natural hat trick.
The Chiefs, however, were their own worst enemy and failed to match the intensity of Sudbury.
“We didn’t start on time. We got beat by a very skilled hockey team and we weren’t prepared,” said Chiefs head coach Tom Bast.
“We have to learn from this and build off of this because we know if we’re going to get to the finals I believe we are going to face this hockey team again.”
Maddison Toppe and Mairead Bast scored for Red Deer while Bailey Knapp took the loss, allowing three goals on 10 shots in the first 8:59 before getting the hook for Sarah Murray, who allowed four goals 22 shots. Knapp came back in for the third period, stopping all seven shots she faced.
Kingsley scored three goals and two assists for Sudbury while Karli Shell had two goals and two assists and Tayler Murphy and Kailey Lapensee both scored once. Danika Ranger stopped 23 of the 25 shots she faced for the win.
The Chiefs started out flat and never did find any jump.
Lapensee and Shell put Sudbury up 2-0 at 5:23 of the first period, though Toppe cut the lead to one goal at 7:21 as she finished off a 2-on-1 rush with Kirsten Baumgardt. But the momentum did not last as Murphy scored from an awkward angle to chase Knapp from the net.
Shell scored once more before the first period was out to put the Wolves up 4-1 while outshooting the Chiefs 19-3 after 20 minutes.
It only got worse from there.
Ranger made a couple of big saves for Sudbury early in the middle frame and then the Chiefs started taking penalties. The Wolves took full advantage as Kingsley scored three straight goals in 6:06 span to bury Red Deer.
“She’s a gifted player who can bury the puck and she’s peaking at the right time,” said Wolves head coach Richard Walker.
Red Deer played better in the third period as Sudbury called off the dogs and Bast scored a 5-on-3 power-play goal at 13:48 to give the Chiefs something to build off of heading into tonight’s game against the Saskatoon Stars at 7 p.m.
“It got us moving, we don’t want to be known as the team that gives up … and the Red Deer Chiefs definitely are not it, so that goal was very important to us,” said Toppe, who also assisted on Bast’s goal.
The Chiefs head coach was not about to blame the refs for this one, despite some interesting calls, especially in the second period, that allowed the Wolves to grab hold of the game. The Wolves finished 3-for-7 with the man advantage while Red Deer was 1-for-7.
“I’m not going to hang the hat on poor officiating, it’s adversity that we need to deal with,” said Bast. “We just didn’t play well … it’s a learning process all of us have to go through as a hockey team.”
Following the Wolves’ seven-game provincial championship on April 12, Walker told Hockey Now: “Say a little prayer for us because we are clearly looking at ourselves as being the underdogs. But, anytime a team wins a national title they need a little bit of luck.”
The Wolves have been full value for their three wins so far and have put themselves in the driver’s seat at the Esso Cup.
Walker says he is still worried about exhaustion setting in with his club, having now played 10 games in the last two weeks. But with a veteran roster that features eight players from last year’s bronze medal team at the tournament, he is confident with their ability to handle themselves. They play the Central Plains Capitals (Manitoba) today at 3:30 p.m.
“Without question (the veterans) bring a lot of experience, having gone through it and know what it takes to win,” said Walker.
“We hope they’re in the room right now reminding the other girls that there’s a long way to go.”
• Sheridan Oswald and Emily Upgang scored twice each to lead the Central Plains Capitals (Manitoba) (1-1-0-1) past the Moncton Rockets (Atlantic) 6-1. Sydney Taylor and Haley Proteau also scored for the Capitals while goalie Lauren Taraschuk stopped 16 of 17 shots for the win.
Sydney Taylor scored the lone goal for Moncton while Emilie Arsenault stopped 33 of 39 shots for Moncton (0-3-0-0).
• Sophie Shirley’s four point night (two goals, two assists) paced the Saskatoon Stars (Saskatchewan) (2-1-0-0) to a 5-3 win over the Edmonton Thunder (Pacific) (0-2-1-0). Nara Elia, Julia Rongve and Brittany Heuchert also scored and Emma Johnson made 26 saves for the win.
Kimberley Huisman, Madison Laplante and Kennedy Becks replied for Edmonton while Tracie Kikuchi stopped 25 shots.