Northstars 4 Optimist Chiefs 1 (Northstars lead series 1-0)
The margin for error in playoff hockey is often razor-thin.
For the Red Deer Optimist Chiefs, it was a lesson learned the hard way Tuesday at Servus Arena. Red Deer dropped a 4-1 decision to the Calgary Northstars in the opening game of the Alberta Midget Hockey League best-of-five playoff series.
Two crucial mistakes cost Red Deer in the loss – an interference penalty in the third period while trailing 2-1, which the Northstars capitalized on and a too many men call with 3:06 to play that ended any chance of a comeback.
“I thought parts of our game were okay. Obviously, in playoff hockey you don’t have to give up much,” said Optimist Chiefs head coach Doug Quinn.
“We got down early on a couple of defensive breakdowns and then score the one goal to get back into it, have a great opportunity to tie it up and we take a silly penalty. That’s usually what happens, the bad ones are hard to kill off.”
Calgary opened the scoring early in the second on a goal from Ethan Aucoin and went up 2-0 midway through the frame when Dean Spak made a nice individual effort and beat Optimist Chiefs goalie Logan Breen.
Still, Red Deer battled back and got within a goal early in the third when Mark Janes cashed at the side of the net, on a great feed from Andrew Wallace.
From there, Red Deer had plenty of chances to tie the game, but Northstars netminder David Guerrero had the answer time and time again.
The Calgary goalie finished the night with 48 saves was another big difference in the contest.
“We got lots of shots but I wouldn’t say we had as much traffic in front. A lot of times I thought their goalie had a clear look. I thought we made it an easier game than he should have had,” added Quinn.
Calgary scored an empty-net goal with 1:52 to go to seal the victory.
Breen made 26 saves in the loss for Red Deer.
Game 2 of the series is Thursday in Calgary before it returns to Red Deer on Feb. 22, 4:45 p.m. at Servus Arena.
“It doesn’t take much. It’s only one game and obviously we would have liked to come out with a different result. We gotta forget about this and get ready for Thursday,” Quinn said.