Red Deer Optimist Chiefs head coach is the first to admit the results the midget AAA team has had this year are not what he was hoping for, however, he sees their hard work and persistence starting to pay off.
Despite a 4-2 loss to the Grande Prairie Storm on Sunday at the Red Deer Arena, it was their third straight solid effort in a row, now they just have to find a way to have those efforts transfer over to the win column.
“It takes patience,” said Chiefs head coach Brandin Cote.
“We’re preaching things that we want them to do and at the end of the day we’re not happy with the results, by any means, but at the same time I’m encouraged, I still totally believe in this team that when it comes to crunch time we have a team that can contend and compete.”
It has been a trying two months for the new head coach as the Chiefs have stumbled out of the gate to sit in the Alberta Midget Hockey League’s basement. Cote has committed to the process all season, and with their recent string of games — including an 8-0 shutout over the Maple Leaf Athletic Club on Saturday in Red Deer and a 1-0 loss to the Canadian Athletic Club last Sunday — the tide finally appears to be turning.
“We are seeing growth, and that’s all that I can say,” said Cote. “We have a plan as a coaching staff and we are seeing improvement …
“In terms of the way we are playing and the details and our defensive play that was not so good at the start of the year, that’s been a lot better.”
On Sunday, the Storm and Chiefs entered the third period tied at 2-2, but a goal by Nolan Yaremko 48 seconds into the frame put Red Deer in chase mode and they were unable to get the tying score.
Logan Mazerolle iced the game for Grande Prairie with an empty netter, his second goal of the contest. Brett Roberts also scored for the Storm while David Testawich made 28 saves for the win.
The Chiefs got goals from Ryley Smith and Tyler Graber while Luke Coleman assisted on both markers.
“We need our best players to be better consistently and there’s always one or two mental mistakes that have cost us games,” said Cote.
Brandon Bilodeau made 30 saves in his third-straight start — he made 19 stops to pick up the shutout the night before against MLAC.
Cote, however, insists they are still in a platoon situation with Bilodeau and Cole Sears, he was just riding the hot hand, hoping to build on some positive momentum.
“Brandon’s earned the right to play right now, Cole has struggled at times, but that doesn’t mean we’re giving up on Cole,” said Cote. “Cole Sears is a guy who has been here before and he’s a guy we expect to be just as valuable as the other guy.”
The Chiefs are in Calgary on Saturday to play the Calgary Royals and then host CAC again on Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Red Deer Arena.
NOTES — In Saturday’s 8-0 win over CAC, Chase Olsen led the Chiefs with three goals and an assist, Brad Mafofka had two goals and two assists, Smith had two goals and Regan Doig potted the other … Smith (10 goals, three asssits) and Mafofka (5-8-13) were tied for the team lead in points with 13 heading into the weekend.