If the Alberta Midget Hockey League championship eventually comes down to home ice advantage the Red Deer Optimist Chiefs may be wishing they didn’t let one get away against the Grande Prairie Storm.
The Storm, who finished seventh in the Northern Division and out of the playoffs, recorded a 2-1 victory over the Chiefs Sunday afternoon at the Arena, which left the Red Deer crew in second place overall, back of Northern Division champion Leduc.
The Chiefs finished first in the South with 50 points, one back of Leduc.
“Whatever happens it’s already happened and we can’t do anything about it,” said Chiefs head coach Doug Quinn. “We have the team that can play against any team in the league and can play in any rink and be capable of having a lot of success.”
But Quinn wasn’t pleased with what he saw Sunday.
“A little disappointed in the effort today,” he said. “Sometimes with kids this age they start looking at the standings and think games will be a little easier than they are. They (Storm) played with team work and determination and blocked a tonne of shots. And when things don’t go well at times we start to panic a bit and the whole structure breaks down. There was some of that today.
“But really throughout the year there are no easy games. If you think there will be it never happens. Even when you have a team with more depth it boils down to work ethic, commitment and focus. When you don’t have that anything can happen.”
The Chiefs finished with 36 shots on Grande Prairie netminder Brandon Bilodeau, but many of those, especially in the third period, were from the outside. Although Bilodeau did stop Ross Heidt on a breakaway early in the final frame.
Jared McAmmond opened the scoring for the Storm at 9:40 of the first period with Nolan Yaremko making bit 2-0 at 10:48. Chase Olsen narrowed the gap in the second period.
“Jayden Sittler finish with 11 saves for the Chiefs, who have a bye in the first round of the playoffs.
“Our goal at the beginning of the year was to finish first in the south and get that bye,” said Quinn, whose squad wrapped up first in the south with a 6-3 win over the Edmonton Maple Leafs Saturday.
Jordie Lawson had two goals against the Leafs with singles added by Quentin Greenwood, Trey deGraaf, Heidt and Tyler Steenbergen. Layne Bensmiller had three assists.
Cole Sears started in goal and allowed three second-period goals while finishing with three saves. Sittler made three saves in the third period. The Chiefs had 53 shots.