The Red Deer Elks were fully aware of the situation as they entered Friday’s game versus the Strathmore Wheatland Chiefs.
Due to a 4-2 loss to the Calgary Royals late Thursday, the Elks knew they couldn’t afford anther setback in the provincial midget AA hockey championship. Clearly up to the challenge, the Red Deer crew blanked the Chiefs 4-0 at the Kinex to even their record at 1-1 with two Pool A games remaining today.
“It was a must win, it was desperation time,” said Elks head coach Kyle Scott.
“We knew that based on the standings after just one game that we had to win or else it would have been a tough road to come back.
“The boys responded and had a good game.”
Two rapid-fire goals from Landon Siegle just past the midway point of the first period had the Chiefs on their heels and the visitors never recovered. With the Elks on the power play, Siegle buried a rebound at 11:05, then beat Wheatland netminder Nolan Kent with a wrist shot to the glove side 65 seconds later.
Just five seconds after Wheatland’s Kody Hammond was tagged with a tripping penalty, Reid Sterling fired a sharp-angle shot past Kent and the Elks had a cozy 3-0 lead after 20 minutes.
Kobe Scott accounted for Red Deer’s fourth goal, a short-handed marker, 3:43 into the second period. Scott pounced on a turnover at the Strathmore blueline, broke in alone and went top shelf on Kent, who was pulled at that point and replaced by J. Mack Clark.
Kent and Clark combined to make 36 saves, while Elks netminder Carter Gendreau stopped 17 shots for the shutout.
The one-sided conquest wasn’t necessarily expected since Wheatland captured the South Division title of the South Central Alberta League this season and are currently involved in the league’s championship series with the Red Deer Indy Graphics Chiefs. However, they played earlier in the day — posting a 5-2 win over the Taber Golden Suns — and by taking nine of 12 minor penalties never really gave themselves a shot at beating the Elks.
“They’re a very good team,” said Kyle Scott.
“I think we pretty much caught them on their second game of the day. We had to take advantage of that and we did a good job.”
In the end, the Elks could take pride in the fact that they played a solid game, complete with excellent special teams play and flawless goaltending.
“From the goaltender on out, everybody played hard and we rolled the lines pretty well,” said Scott. “Everyone chipped in and it was a good win.”
The Elks wind up Pool B play with two games today, taking on Taber at 11:45 a.m. at the Arena and meeting the Peace River Royals at 7 p.m. at the Kinex.
“We can enjoy this for a good 10 to 15 minutes, then get something to eat and get some rest,” said Scott. “We have a big day tomorrow.”
In Thursday’s late game at the Kinex, the Royals jumped out to a 3-0 lead before the second period was six minutes old en route to their win over the Elks, whose goals came off the sticks of Kyle Skogan and Anthony Neurauter. Calvin Bliid’s goal at 5:26 of the middle frame was the eventual winner.
Gendreau and Royals goalie Draven Rees each made 31 saves.
Meanwhile, the provincial tournament host Indy Graphic Chiefs ran their record to 3-0 in Pool A with a pair of victories Friday, whipping the Wainwright Polar Kings 8-2 at the Arena and edging the Northeast Panthers 4-3 in the final game of the day.
Josh Bussard and Logan Linnell each tallied twice against the Polar Kings. Keagan Kingwell, Samuel Damchuk, Justin Paarup and Tanner Zentner also scored for the Chiefs, who were up 2-0 after one period and carried a 5-1 lead into the final 20 minutes.
Jayden Buxton and Logan Smith scored for Wainwright, which directed 26 shots at Indy netminder Geordan Andrew. Hayden Missier faced 53 shots in the Polar Kings net.
Bussard scored a pair of goals in the win over the Panthers. Ryan Morrell and Zentner accounted for the other Indy markers.
Justin Anderson made 31 saves for the Chiefs, outshot 34-29.
• In other Pool B contests Friday, Peace River battled the Royals to a 4-4 draw and Taber blanked the Royals 2-0.
Peace River sat atop the pool heading into today’s action with a 1-0-1 record, followed by the Royals at 1-1-1, the Elks and Wheatland at 1-1 and Taber at 1-2.
• Indy Graphics, which faces the Spruce Grove Saints today at 4 p.m. at the Arena, holds down top spot in Pool A. Next in line are the Spruce Grove Saints with a win and a tie, Edmonton Southside and Wainwright, each with a tie and a loss, and Northeast with a tie and two setbacks.
In Friday’s other Pool A games, Spruce Grove doubled Northeast 6-3 and tied Southside 3-3.
The top two teams in each pool following today’s action will meet in cross-over semifinals Sunday at 9 a.m. at the Arena and Kinex. The championship final will follow at 3 p.m. at the Arena.