Tom Bast could only wonder about what might have been.
“A bounce here and there and it could have been a different story,” the Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs head coach said Saturday at the Arena following his team’s 2-1 loss to the Sudbury Lady Wolves in the final of the Esso Cup tournament, the Canadian midget girls hockey championship.
“The last 10 minutes of the game we found some energy. We were finding ways to score and finding ways to win earlier in the week. Today we came up a little bit short.
“We’ve had a fabulous week and if anyone had told our girls that we’d be in the final and down 2-1 in the final period, I think we would have taken that big-time. The girls got a great experience. Losing is not fun but will make us stronger and build a bit more character. We’ll go back to the drawing board next year and keep battling along and developing young women in hockey.”
The Chiefs might get another shot at a national title next season considering they will return all but two players — goalie Sarah Murray and forward Ashley Richard — from the 2015 Esso Cup silver medal team.
“We’re only losing two players so hopefully we can be strong and come back next year,” said Chiefs defenceman and assistant captain Abagael Thiessen.
“The adversity that we faced together and with all that we learned . . . we will be back,” said Mairead Bast, also a rearguard and an assistant captain.
Both players admitted that performing in front of an enthusiastic gathering of 1,100 Saturday at the Arena was an experience they won’t soon forget.
“It was incredible playing in front of our hometown fans,” said Bast. “It was very special. They were our seventh player, they kept us going.”
Added Thiessen: “That was probably the biggest crowd I’ve ever played in front of. They really kept us going through the whole game and kept us in it. I’m looking forward to more of that, hopefully.”
Thiessen suggested that the Chiefs’ home-ice showing in the national championship tournament should help with the growth of female hockey in Red Deer and Central Alberta.
“I’m really excited about the possibility of this giving younger players the motivation to continue playing after minor hockey,” said Thiessen.
l Nara Ella scored once and added two assists to help the Saskatoon Stars defeat the Central Plains Capitals of Manitoba 5-1 in the bronze-medal game earlier Saturday.
Also connecting for the Stars were Sophie Shirley, Julia Rongve, Mackenna Parker and Kianna Dietz. Sheridan Oswald netted the lone Capitals goal.
Karlee Fertch turned aside 27 shots as the winning goaltender. Lauren Taraschuk made 10 saves for the Manitoba champs.