Photo by JEFF STOKOE/Advocate staff Midget AAA hockey Red Deer Optimist Chief Nathan Dyck and Calgary Northstar Logan Heimann battle for the puck during first period Midget AAA action at the Kinex in Red Deer on Saturday.

Optimist Chiefs off to sick start at Mac’s tournament

Bisons 5 Chiefs 2

With apologies to all the Millennials out there, it hasn’t been the cool kind of sick for the Red Deer Optimist Chiefs to start the 38th annual Mac’s Midget AAA Tournament in Calgary.

Coming into the tournament with a bug keeping at least eight players out of the lineup last week, and forcing the Chiefs to use five affiliates at one point, things got off on the wrong foot on Boxing Day with a 5-2 loss to the Foothills CFR Bisons.

“I wasn’t happy with the result. We didn’t help ourselves. It’s always tough playing that first game right after Christmas,” head coach Doug Quinn said on the team’s day off Tuesday.

Red Deer fell behind 2-0 in the first period and didn’t have much jump, but hung on in the second period after Dylan Scheunert opened the scoring for the Chiefs. Poor defensive zone coverage led to two more third period Bisons’ goals, but there were chances for the Chiefs to climb back in the game that they were unable to capitalize on.

“We were down 2-0 after the first four shots. The first one went off our own player, which is always hard, than we gave up a breakaway (goal). Our team has always struggled to score goals. So we did get behind early which is difficult against a top team. We did battle back, got it back to 2-1 and had opportunities to tie it. In stretches we outplayed them,” Quinn said.

“A few coverage breakdowns, we were a little shaky in our defensive zone for big portions of the game.”

Red Deer did control the shot clock through the final two periods, and managed to outshoot the Bisons 33-28.

Grayson Cameron added a goal for Red Deer late in the third. Kyle Budvarson had two assists in the loss.

Both teams play in the Alberta Midget Hockey League, with their only contest this season ending in a 2-2 tie on Oct. 28. The Bisons have dominated the AMHL with a 18-3-3 record, while the Chiefs have battled injuries to a 12-4-7 mark.

The Chiefs, with a short-handed lineup also took on the Austrian U18 national team on Dec. 23, but finished the game with a 3-3 tie.

“Considering our lineup, we did reasonably well,” Quinn said. “We were up 3-1 with about 10 minutes to go. We were just a tired, sick team.”

Red Deer had an off day Tuesday, but is back on the ice in Calgary at 11:45 a.m. Wednesday against the Moose Jaw Generals, the first of three games in three nights for the squad. It’ll be a tough stretch for the Chiefs according to Quinn.

“We’re finally starting to get healthy. Because we’ve had to juggle our lineup so much, a lot of our systems and structure was a little bit off,” he said. “Hopefully we can tidy up a few things. Our defensive zone was not very good at all … all it takes is one person to be out of position and then the whole thing can break down.”

byron.hackett@bprda.wpengine.com

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