For 40 minutes the Red Deer Optimist Chiefs (6-10-5) looked like world beaters on Friday night, but they had to held on for dear life for the final 20.
Pretty it wasn’t, but the Chiefs are desperate enough for wins that they are not about to turn down their 7-5 Alberta Midget Hockey League victory over the Knights of Columbus Pats (3-15-2) out of Edmonton at the Red Deer Arena.
“We needed to get the points,” said head coach Brandin Cote. “We’re chasing some teams in our division and we had some games in hand, and we gained some ground on teams with the two points.”
The win moved them one point behind the Calgary Northstars (6-11-6) for the final playoff spot in the South Division with two games in hand.
Regan Doig scored twice for Red Deer while Ryan Vandervlis, Chase Olsen, Luke Coleman, Kale Howarth and Ryley Smith each scored once. Branden Bilodeau made 25 saves for the win.
The Pats responded with two goals from Brandon Paziuk and one each from Jake Mercier, Cale Chalifoux and Alex Rotundo.
James D’Angelo allowed six goals on 20 shots and was lifted for Tyler Kwiatkowski who allowed one goal on six shots but was hurt on the goal and was replaced by D’Angelo at 5:18 of the third.
The Chiefs had this game well in hand, playing some of their best hockey of the season, and took a 6-2 lead into the final period.
But disaster struck as Rotundo scored for the Pats at 2:26.
Chiefs forward Howarth had a Pats player accidentally step on his forearm after a check, leaving him with a cut that took about 15 stitches to close.
The Chiefs players saw this on the bench as he skated off and Cote took a time out to allow them to try and collect themselves.
“As soon as that happened the whole bench just went (quiet), their focus was not even close to being in the building at that point in time,” said Cote.
The time out didn’t work. The Pats took the puck right back down and Paziuk scored five seconds later to cut the lead to 6-4.
Doig responded at 5:18 for the Chiefs to stretch the lead back out to three goals, but Paziuk scored his second at 10:31.
Edmonton continued to swarm, but were unable to get the score any closer despite pulling D’Angelo at 17:28 of the third period.
“There’s still some consistency issues we need to get better with, there’s some people that still (play hard) whenever they want, so we’ve got to get that sorted out still,” said Cote. “But you’re never going to complain about a win. We got the two points and we can take some good things out of it and learn from some of the things that happened in the third period.”
The Chiefs host the Leduc Oil Kings (8-9-4) on Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Arena.