The Red Deer Northstar Chiefs go into today’s final day of round-robin play at the provincial minor midget AAA hockey championships holding their destiny in their own hands.
The Chiefs came out of Thursday’s action with only one point — a 2-2 tie with the Edmonton SSAC Bulldogs at the Arena — but that coupled with a 4-4 tie against the Edmonton CAC Canadians Wednesday and a 2-1 loss to the Southeast Tigers Thursday afternoon left them tied for fourth place with two points.
In fact the Chiefs face both teams they’re tied with today as they clash with the Lloydminster Rage at 10 a.m. at the Kinex and the Calgary Rangers at 5 p.m. at the Arena. Two wins and the Chiefs advance to the playoffs.
“We’re capable of beating both teams,” said Chiefs head coach Justin Jarmolicz. “We defeated Lloydminster in our preseason tournament and we match up well with the Rangers. It will be a fun day tomorrow.”
For a period Thursday it appeared as if the Chiefs would be on the wrong end of two 2-1 decisions. However, Braden Olsen connected on a screened shot at 16:06 of the third period to tie the Bulldogs.
It was a much deserved tie, as the Chiefs battled the North Division championships every step of the way.
“We came out strong and the boys played hard every period and in every situation,” said Jarmolicz. “I thought we deserved a better fate, but at least we got a point.”
Both teams had chances to win the game on the power play, especially Red Deer, who enjoyed a four-minute power play in the second period and a two-man advantage for over a minute in the third.
“I thought our power play was good today, we did everything we asked except score,” said Jarmolicz. “That’s OK. We’re still confident with it and the thing is we’re not forcing plays and the boys will only get stronger and stronger as we go along.
“As a coach that’s what we want.”
The Chiefs had problems scoring Thursday, something that has been hot and cold all season. At lot of that had to do with solid goaltending by both the Tigers’ Kayden Pickles and the ‘Dogs Reid Conroy-Dutton.
“Scoring goes in spurts,” continued Jarmolicz. “We go through periods where we have a tough time and then one weekend we’ll scored 12 goals. The thing is in this tournament things really tighten up.”
As for the goaltending Jarmolicz felt they helped make them look good.
“Don’t take anything away from them, they made some good saves, but we do make goalies look good at times by not getting the puck up in close and just shooting into their pads We just need to bear down on our chances and find ways (to score).”
Matthew Froehlick accounted for the other Red Deer goal against the Bulldogs, scoring in the first period. Merritt Oszytko connected for the ‘Dogs in the first period and Jared Smith in the second.
Both Conroy-Dutton and Red Deer’s Lane Congdon face 30 shots.
Tyrees Goodrunning, a pickup from the bantam AAA Rebels Black, scored the Chiefs lone goal against the Tigers, who got goals from Ryan Teslak and Dylan Macpherson. Pickles faced 27 shots while Reid Money faced 23 for the Chiefs.
Goodrunning has been one of the more impressive players on the Chiefs during the tournament.
“For a smaller guy he’s a machine,” said Jarmolicz. “He makes a lot of plays and his speed generates things. He’s tough, gritty and goes into all the areas . . . he’s a hockey player.”
In other games Thursday, the Tigers downed the Rage 6-1 while the Canadians stopped the Rage 5-4 and lost 6-2 to the Rangers. The Rangers also dropped a 3-1 decision to the Bulldogs.
The top four teams following round-robin play meet in the semifinals at 11:15 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday at the Arena with the bronze medal match at 11:45 a.m. and the final at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, also at the Arena.