Red Deer Optimist Chiefs forward Jayden Henderson hunts for a loose puck as Ethan Boutcher of the Grande Prairie Storm is in hot pursuit during the season opener of the Alberta Midget Hockey League. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

Red Deer Optimist Chiefs edged by Grande Prairie Storm in home opener

Storm 4 Chiefs 3

The Red Deer Optimist Chiefs are expecting some growing pains early in the Alberta Midget Hockey League.

With only a handful of returning players on the roster, the youth was evident in a 4-3 loss in the home opener Saturday at Servus Arena.

“I thought it was pretty average. I thought we were a little bit nervous and uptight in the first period. I want us to do well and I want us to play hard. We’ve got a young team,” said Optimist Chiefs head coach Doug Quinn.

“Looking for opportunities for kids to grow and we’re trying people in different situations. We really have no set power play or penalty kill. We’re just letting everybody play. To me it’s part of a process, we want to be the best team at the end of the year.”

Grande Praire opened the scoring with a pair of goals in the first, before Ty Daneault responded for Red Deer late in the frame, pouncing on a rebound.

The Storm restored the two-goal lead midway through the second, but Kaiden Ellertson helped the home side get back within a goal less than two minutes later.

Red Deer managed to tie the game on a goal from Jayden Henderson only to have Tye Evans bury the game-winner for the Storm three minutes after that.

Late in the game, the Optimist Chiefs had a number of chances to tie the game but hit the crossbar with less than a minute to go on the power play, with the goalie out.

Returning Optimist Chiefs netminder Logan Breen stopped 29 shots in the loss for home side.

Quinn thinks down the road, once his team gets their feet under them, their strength will be in-depth up and down the lineup.

“We only have four or five kids back from last year. It’s a bit of an adjustment for some of them, as far as the speed and I think we’re still adjusting to that. What I’m looking for is really the work ethic and commitment,” Quinn said.

“I’m not sure if we have the high-end talent, but what I’m looking for and what I think the strength of this team– I think we have decent depth upfront. At the end of the day, I think we’re going to have a pretty balanced lineup.”

Sunday, the Chiefs bounced back with a 3-1 victory over the Calgary Flames.

Kaleb Kremp buried the game-winning goal just 1:58 into the second period. Tyler Bourdages had the lone goal in the first period and Foxx Doell added an empty-net goal with two seconds left in the game. Colby Knight made 29 saves in the win. Tyler MacKenzie, Conner Furukawa and Kyle Wallace all added assists for Red Deer.

Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

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The Red Deer Optimist Chiefs celebrate a first period goal in in the season opener of the Alberta Midget Hockey League. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

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