The Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs head coach Tom Bast is a stickler for details.
He calls himself a perfectionist, pushing his hockey team to work on fundamentals so they’re playing at the top of their game come playoff time.
It’s no different with the Chiefs, who downed the Southeast Tigers 1-0 in overtime Saturday afternoon at the Collicutt Centre to win their best-of-five Alberta Major Midget Hockey League South Division semifinal 3-1.
“I’ve been very pleased with our progress,” said Bast, whose squad also won 3-1 at home Friday. “It’s been a rocky road at times as we have a lot of girls, who are learning to be accountable, leading to be accountable to each other and learning to play a system. There has been rocky times, but we’re overcoming those and played like a hockey team today.”
The Chiefs, who lost three of four games against the Tigers during the regular season, controlled play territorially, but it wasn’t until 5:51 of the 10-minute overtime period that they were able to beat Tigers netminder Jessica Lohues. Shealee Dolan notched her first goal of the playoffs, shovelling home a rebound during a scramble.
The Chiefs held the Tigers to just one shot in the overtime and that was a nice leg save by Nisa Bartlett who finished with 17 saves. Her teammates had 26 shots.
“I certainly like the way our defence has been playing and we’re missing Mairead (Bast) as well,” said Bast. “We’ve also moved a couple of girls back from up front and they’ve done a good job.”
Bast believes in having a team in top condition at this time of the season.
“If they are well conditioned and have a jump to their step it’s easier to play. When you’re trying to be reactive instead of proactive it’s hard and we want to be forcing the play.”
Bast knows a thing or two about playing playoffs hockey after taking the IROC Chiefs to the league and provincial 15-year-old championship two years ago.
“It’s always nice to play at the end of the season. Characteristically I want my teams to be ready to play in February and March and that comes down to conditioning.”
One aspect of the game that’s hurt the team during the season was a lack of scoring. That’s beginning to change of late.
“We have four or five girls who could be great goal scorers and that’s a matter of teaching them confidence that when they’re in the scoring areas to shoot the puck.”
On Friday, Cassidy Hollman and Erika Marshall gave the Chiefs a 2-0 first period lead with Raven Beazer narrowing the gap in the second period. However, team scoring leader Becky Davidson put the game away at 17:25 of the third period.
Bartlett finished with 16 saves while her mates had 14 shots on Tigers goalie Mackenzie Fairbrother-Skinner.
• The Chiefs will face the Highwood Raiders in the South final . . . Mairead Bast has been out five weeks with a concussion.