The Red Deer Midget A Sutter Fund Chiefs are under going a youth movement this year, but they are not letting it hold them back at all.
Instead, they have rolled up a 7-3-0 overall record this season, despite dropping a 3-2 exhibition decision to the Northwest Territories 2015 Canada Winter Games team on Thursday at the Red Deer Kinsmen Arenas.
NWT was making a stop in town to play their first game together as a team as they headed to Calgary for the Wickenheiser World Female Hockey Festival, or Wik Fest. Red Deer is also participating in the tournament.
“We knew they’d have a lot of speed and jump in the first period, which they did, and then we picked up our intensity level and compete to tie it at 2-2,” said Chiefs head coach Lee Deary.
“It was a tough goal in the third period, but I’m very happy with our effort.”
Dakota Earle, Davina McLeod and Kandis Vellebrun scored for NWT.
Red Deer responded with goals Alayne Wagstaff and Emily Herman while Kali Vall made 10 saves and Cianna Weir 17 in a split game for the goalies.
Due to weather, the Chiefs have only played three Rocky Mountain Female Hockey League games this season, but carry a 2-1-0 record in those games.
This is their first season at the tier I level, after a 17-3-0 campaign at tier II level.
However, they are also icing a much younger team made up mostly of 15 and 16 year olds, they have just two players in their 17-year-old season.
But they are stocked with high potential players like Tyla Lee, Lexi Davis, Alayna Wagstaff and Weir among others.
“We’ve got a really good group, we’ve got players on this team that their goal is to be on the AAA team next year,” said Deary, who is also the director of female hockey for the Red Deer Minor Hockey Association.
“They didn’t make it this year but they want to be there next year.”
They are led by veteran Jade Lee who actually played the last few years with the Sutter Fund Chiefs major midget team, but wanted to spend this year playing with her sister Tyla.
They have a well balanced team with scoring up front and good puck moving defencemen on the blue line, their biggest issue is just the continual growth of their team chemistry.
“It’s about gelling as a team … we’re moving players around, who plays well with who? who has a good connection? and we’ll see,” said Deary.
In their three regular season games, Megan Phillips has a team high six points (four goals, two assists) while the Lees are tied for second with three points each.
Goaltending has been split all season with Vall posting a 1-1 record with a 2.00 goals against average, Weir meanwhile has a shutout in her only league game.
At Wik Fest, the Chiefs will get to play the team from Mexico, the Big Sky Wildcats out of Montana, the Kootenay Nitros and the Calgary Steelers.
“Last year we went to the came tournament and lost to Cranbrook in the final, so our goal is to be in the final on Sunday,” said Deary.
Despite the youth on this team, Deary has high hopes for the club this year.
“Last year we made it right to the league final, but we peaked too soon, we never got better, everybody picked up their compete level and our’s stayed the same,” said Deary. “We had a really great year …. but I think this year we have a really strong opportunity to progress as a team.”