The Red Deer Optimist Chiefs’ solid work ethic couldn’t save them Tuesday night at the Arena.
As a result, they couldn’t save their season.
The Chiefs had plenty of try but came up dry offensively in a 5-0 Alberta Midget Hockey League playoff loss to the Foothills Bisons, who took the best-of-five South Division semifinal 3-1.
“We worked, we competed. It didn’t go our way tonight but it wasn’t for a lack of compete,” said Red Deer head coach Brandin Cote. “We just didn’t have what we needed to have.”
Foothills, meanwhile, had more than enough to post the convincing win and move on to the South final against the Calgary Flames.
Kyle Gordon scored the only goal the Bisons needed in the final minute of the opening period and the visitors struck for two more in each of the final two frames.
“They have a veteran team over there so you have to give them credit. They have six or seven guys who went to the Telus Cup (national midget AAA championship) last year and that experience is invaluable,” said Cote.
The Chiefs swept the Calgary Buffaloes in a best-of-three division quarter-final and were still in decent shape Tuesday, down 2-1 in the semifinal but back on home ice.
”I thought we did a real good job of battling in the first series and this series could have gone either way,” said Cote. “The first game they were better than us and I thought the next two games we were better than them.
“I really thought we deserved a better fate in Game 3 (a 4-3 loss Sunday at Strathmore). We outshot them and got a goal called back that was definitely 100 per cent a goal. Then tonight … it was one of those things that just happens.”
Tyler Petrie, Tyson Scott, Gary Haden and Cole Reinhardt also tallied for the Bisons, who got a 24-save shutout performance from Hunter Virostek. Justin Travis kicked out 26 shots in the Chiefs net.
“I have nothing but good things to say about the group of kids we have,” said Cote. “They came to work every day, they were respectful and they were a team. We didn’t have a lot of high-end talent which might have hurt us and we had some injuries down the stretch at key times.
“Our goaltender Justin Travis was fantastic in the playoffs, especially coming in after losing a goaltender like Dawson Weatherill (called up to the WHL Red Deer Rebels). He came in and stepped up and did whatever he could to help us.”
The Chiefs started the season strong, tailed off somewhat in December, then battled through a series of injuries and ended the regular season on the upswing. The Red Deer squad finished in a three-way tie — with the Bisons and Flames — atop the division but were relegated to third place via a league formula.
“Maybe if we had home ice (advantage) this would have been a different series, but we can’t think about that,” said Cote.
“I’m just proud of the group. When I took this over (in 2014) my priority was, and is, to help these kids develop. I thought we had a lot of kids go onwards and upwards and some of them are going to play at a higher level next season because of it.”