The Red Deer Optimist Chiefs are on a roll and kept the momentum flowing into the opening game of the Mac’s Midget AAA Tournament in Calgary.
At the 40th edition of the annual tournament, the Optimist Chiefs opened with a 3-2 victory on Wednesday over their Alberta Midget AAA Hockey League division foe – the Calgary Flames.
Since Nov. 1, Red Deer has registered 13 victories just one loss, and a tie.
“It’s always tough playing that first game of the tournament after having a bit of a break and then Christmas and the holidays and the food. I thought we were a little bit sluggish,” Optimist Chiefs head coach Doug Quinn said.
“I thought we got better as the game went on, probably had opportunities to make it 4-2. We were down 2-0 and tied it up pretty quick and had chances to go up four or 5-2, but we didn’t. We were in a little bit of panic mode the last few minutes to hang on.”
Calgary jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second period, before the Optimist Chiefs got a pair of power play goals from Deegan Mofford and Adam Heindel four minutes apart.
Just 91 seconds after Red Deer tied the game, Daylen Keufler scored the game-winning goal.
Goalie Duncan Hughes held Calgary scoreless in the third and finished the game with 28 saves.
“He made some great saves at the end and we’re happy we came away with the two points,” Quinn said.
The head coach also said getting off on the right foot is always important in a short tournament. He added some players were inevitably nervous heading into such a prestigious event because of the type and the exposure.
“Sometimes the kids get a little too excited,” said Quinn. “Probably trying to do a little too much. That doesn’t always translate into good play. For us, it is – be excited to play and work hard, but control your emotions.”
On Thursday, Red Deer will square off against the Vancouver Northwest Giants. Quinn said the two teams have a long history but ultimately they have to focus on winning one game at a time. He said the team is excited to play in this tournament.
“There’s a lot of prestige that goes with it and doing well,” said Quinn. “But we’re building our team to be the best towards the end of the season.”
The Optimist Chiefs will play the defending champion Belarus Under 17 National Team on Friday before facing Saskatoon Saturday to close out round robin play.