Head coach Brandin Cote has preached patience and process all season with the Red Deer Optimist Chiefs (5-10-5), but he is starting to run out of games.
Two days after waxing one of the best teams in the Alberta Midget Hockey League, they fell on their face in a 5-2 loss to the Calgary Flames (8-7-6) on Sunday afternoon at the Red Deer Arena.
“We have some people in that room that need to do some soul searching and we’ve got to figure it out because we’re running out of time,” said Cote, clearly frustrated. “I still believe in this team … but the reality is, we’ve got 14 games left and we need to catch some teams … we need to start winning some games and having some urgency in the games that really matter.”
Jackson Riddall, Adam Scoville, Cale Makar, Andy Fitzpatrick and Markus Boguslavsky scored for Calgary while Matt Huber made 24 saves for the win.
Ryley Smith and Brad Makofka replied for Red Deer while Cole Sears allowed four goals on 19 shots before getting lifted for Branden Bilodeau, who stopped 20 of the 21 shots he faces over the final 36 minutes.
The game started out well enough for the home team as Smith opened the scoring 5:37 into the game, but the lead did not last long.
Riddall scored at 7:21 and then Scoville made it 2-1 Calgary at 11:20.
The Flames scored twice more early in the second period to stretch the lead to 4-1 and then added one more at 9:04.
Cote went into the second intermission not the happiest of coaches and the Chiefs responded with a solid third period. Makofka scored a power-play goal at 13:09 to make the score a little more respectable. But the hole was too deep to dig all the way out of.
“We challenged them in the intermission, obviously, the third period was good but at the same time there’s not many positives we can take out of this,” said Cote. “Yeah the effort was good in the third period, but then why can’t you do that the whole game? That’s the million dollar question.”
The Chiefs were coming off a 6-3 win over the Calgary Buffaloes on Friday at the Arena. The Buffaloes (11-5-4) are one point of first place in the Chrysler South Division, but hold two games in hand over the Calgary Royals (11-6-5).
It was a performance Cote was hoping they could build off of, but instead they laid an egg.
“We don’t have enough guys committed to working on a consistent basis,” he said. “The tough part for me is that’s what the message is all the time. It’s not like they’re not getting the message or the message isn’t getting to them, it’s what they’re doing with the message.”
They have 14 games left in their AMHL season, including four before the Christmas break. The Chiefs are currently in seventh place in the division, three points behind the Calgary Northstars (6-10-6) for the final playoff spot.
This weekend they host the Knights of Columbus Pats (3-14-2) out of Edmonton on Friday at 8 p.m. and the Leduc Oil Kings (8-9-4) on Sunday at 3 p.m.
“We can go into Christmas on a high note and be right in the mix, but we’ve got to figure some things out in terms of the effort we’re going to bring on a consistent basis,” said Cote. “We can’t afford to have one really good game and then have a stinker like we did tonight.”