The Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs found their post-season legs Sunday, just in the nick of time.
After falling 2-0 Saturday to the visiting Rocky Mountain Raiders in the first game of a best-of-five Alberta Major Midget Female Hockey League playoff series, the Chiefs needed a victory in Game 2 to avoid slipping into a rather large hole. Mission accomplished, as the Chiefs edged the Raiders 2-1 at the Arena to square the set at a game apiece.
The winner of the series, which continues Friday and Saturday with games at Airdrie and Okotoks, will advance to a four-team league championship tournament.
“I was very proud of our girls today,” said Sutter Fund head coach Tom Bast, whose club — along with the remainder of the AMMFHL teams — was relatively idle for an extended stretch due to the recent Canada Winter Games in Prince George.
“Until yesterday, we hadn’t played a real competitive game in three weeks. Yes, we had exhibition games, but they’re not like playoff games. Once we got our game going and our feet moving today.
“I was very pleased. I was glad to see that our girls are back in the swing of playoff hockey.”
Kaitlan Linnell’s second-period goal was the winner Sunday. The clubs were tied 1-1 after one period, with Breanna Martin scoring for Red Deer and Teagan Borbandy striking for the Raiders.
Bailey Knapp turned aside 18 shots in the Chiefs net, while Kate Lloyd made 33 saves for the Raiders.
The Chiefs will host the Esso Cup — the Canadian midget girls hockey championship — at the Arena April 19-25 and would prefer to stay active with meaningful games for as long as possible prior to the national tournament.
“No question, we want to continue to play (pressure) hockey. I don’t want to play exhibition games for a month,” said Bast.
“We’re taking it one game at time for now because this playoff series we have with the Raiders is going to be a tough series,” he continued. “They play us hard for some reason . . . this particular team, they do well against us. But our girls came to play today, they had tremendous will.
“That’s what I’ve been preaching — that will to win, that will to compete.”
The Chiefs, who were assessed five of eight minor penalties in Game 2, aimed shots at Rocky Mountain netminder Courtney Toner Saturday without finding the back of the net. Sarah Murray made 24 saves for the Sutter Fund crew, which gave up both goals in the second period.
A fifth game in the series, if necessary, will be played Sunday at the Arena, starting at 12:15 p.m.