Red Deer 4 Calgary NW 4
Jeremy Klessens showed why he is one of the provinces top young hockey players on Sunday, but the Red Deer North Star Chiefs (10-8-4) are more than a one-trick pony.
Klessens scored twice to tie the Calgary NW Bruins 4-4 at the Red Deer Arena in Alberta Minor Midget Hockey League action.
It was his second goal at 18:26 of the third period, while shorthanded, that encapsulated the U16 Hockey Alberta forward.
Klessens sprinted to a loose puck at the Calgary blue-line, then split the Bruins (11-8-2) defenders and snapped the puck past goalie Liam Coulter as he was being dragged down to tie the game.
“I saw the lane to go through them and I pushed through and I was hoping I got the puck in before I went in (to the net) and it just happened that way,” said Klessens. “Sometimes it just goes in, I got lucky I guess.”
Nathan Dyck added a goal and two assists while Graysen Cameron had the other goal for the Chiefs and Canon Whitbread made 18 saves in net.
Calgary replied with two goals from Zach Russell and one each from Evan Davies and Jacob Colwell. Coulter finished with 44 saves.
The Chiefs rallied from a 3-1 deficit to earn the tie, relying on their special teams to get back into the game. First Dyck scored on the power play at 11:21 of the second period and then Klessens tied it for the first time at 15:29 on another power play, ripping a slap shot off the post that rebounded off the goalie’s back and into the net.
Colwell put the Bruins back in front before the middle frame was out — deflecting a shot five-hole on Whitbread — setting Klessens up for his late-game dramatics.
“(Klessens) is just that type of kid, when he gets the puck it just seems to follow him,” said Chiefs head coach Brent Zimmerman. “He’s a heady hockey player … he’s just such a smart kid and he takes the puck and is very good with it.”
Klessens leads the Chiefs in points with 38 (22 goals, 16 assists) and is 11th overall in the league, but he has a lot of help up front. Red Deer is well equipped offensively with Justin Paarup at 29 points (13-16-29), and Dylan Scheunert (6-12-28), Tyrell McCubbing (6-12-18) and Austin Lawson (6-10-16) all within shouting distance of a point-a-game pace.
The Chiefs have five more players in double-digit points, meaning they have four lines that can contribute offensively.
“The biggest thing is we are just a team, we’re 19 guys all pulling the same way,” said Zimmerman.
The blue-line, meanwhile, is made up of size and physicality. Four of their six defencemen are at least six-feet tall with Jerryd Wold topping out at six-foot-three and 160 pounds — McCubbing is six-foot-one, 158 pounds; Daegan Macdonald is six-foot, 142 pounds and McKoy Kahlert is six-foot-one, 162 pounds. Even their two smaller defenders — Lynton Mounk and Zach Kungle, both five-foot-nine — still fall in-step with a big, physical game.
“They’re just big kids, they use their sticks well and play the position well,” said Zimmerman.
Time in net has been split between Whitbread and Justin Travis, both posting identical 5-4-2 records, while Travis has slightly better stats with a 4.18 goals against average and a 0.896 save percentage to Whitbread’s 4.20 G.A.A. and 0.866 save percentage.
Though the numbers don’t exactly glisten, Zimmerman has faith in his two netminders.
“We went into a little bit of a slump there, but you couldn’t blame the goaltending, they’ve been strong all of the way through, it’s more our defensive zone play which we’re working on too,” he said.
The club has found its legs over the past month, including this weekend’s 6-4 win over the Calgary Royals Gold (10-9-4) on Saturday and their 4-4 tie on Sunday, they have gone 4-1-1 in their last six games. It has been a big jump up the standings for the Chiefs over the last three weeks after a 0-4-1 stretch from Nov. 29-Dec. 7.
Finding cohesiveness is usually a big hurdle for most minor midget teams with a complete turnover of the roster every season. But Zimmerman says there has been little challenge in getting this group on the same page.
“These kids are all still looking into their future and they’re playing for something other than just playing, it’s been pretty easy,” he said. “They buy into the concepts, it’s just getting them to understand the concepts.”
The head coach has high expectations for the group with going on a long run in the Sutter Cup and moving on to provincials as the end goal. With the way they are improving he believes the goal is very realistic.
“Once you’re (at provincials), anything can happen,” said Zimmerman. “This was a big point we picked up … every point you can get is a bonus. We are right where we want to be, we just have to keep on battling, it just makes every game important.”
The Chiefs are on the road this week for three games, in Calgary on Tuesday against the Royals Gold and in Medicine Hat on Saturday to play the Tigers (7-11-3) and in Lethbridge on Sunday to play the Hurricanes (8-10-4).
• The North Star Chiefs rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat the Calgary Royals Gold 6-4 on Saturday in Calgary, getting two goals from both Klessens and Lawson while Cameron and Nathan Kartusch both scored once. Whitbread played 58 minutes in relief, making 25 saves on 28 shots for the win.
• Brenden Davidson, Levi Glasman and Braidon Westin each contributed a goal and an assist in a losing cause as the Red Deer Aero Equipment Chiefs fell 8-5 to the host Calgary Bruins Saturday.
Bradley Hellofs and Jacksyn Goodall had the other Red Deer goals. Shae Herbert took the loss in net, turning aside 16 of 23 shots before being replaced by Riley Katchuik, who stopped 11 of the 12 shots he faced.