Chiefs 3 Kings 2
The Red Deer Optimist Chiefs can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
With the Chiefs’ 3-2 win over the Sherwood Park Kings (10-8-8), they moved to one point out of sixth place and a playoff spot in the Alberta Midget Hockey League South Division and two points out of fourth place.
The Chiefs (10-11-5) have done a lot of digging to get themselves out of an early season hole that had playoffs as a distant goal.
But first year head coach Brandin Cote has stuck to his guns and is now seeing his persistence pay off.
“We’re on a bit of a roll here and we just have to keep playing the right way,” said Cote.
Andrew Kartusch scored twice for the Chiefs, including the game winner on the power play at 7:51 of the third period, while Kale Howarth scored the other. Cole Sears made 31 saves for the win.
Joel Lakusta and Jack Hamly replied for Sherwood Park while Korlan Vader made 30 saves in the loss.
The Kings took a 2-0 lead at 2:42 of the second period, but the Chiefs came roaring back, scoring two goals in 51 seconds just over five minutes into the frame.
Kartusch completed the come back by snapping a rebound into a gaping cage mid-way through the third period. Most importantly, however, they killed off a Tyreese Goodrunning double-minor for spearing, taking just 27 seconds after the go-ahead goal.
“Our penalty kill, I can’t complain about, all year it’s been fairly consistent,” said Cote.
“Our power play, we’ve been working on that and we got two (goals) tonight. Our specialty teams were a big factor in the game.”
The Chiefs have been running red hot with five wins in their last six games. Though they are one point behind the Calgary Flames (9-10-8) and Calgary Northstars (10-13-6) for the sixth and final playoff spot in the South, they still have a game in hand over the Flames and three over the Northstars. The Lethbridge Hurricanes are also within range in fourth place, two points ahead of Chiefs but also with one more game played than Red Deer.
This week the Chiefs hit the road for a pair of games, in Leduc against the Oil Kings on Thursday at 7:45 p.m. and in Lethbridge on Sunday at 2:45 p.m.
“You want to be playing hockey in March and April and in order to do that you have to get better,” said Cote. “You can win all the games in the world at the start of the year, but if you’re no good when it comes to crunch time then it doesn’t matter.”