The Red Deer Midget AAA Optimist Chiefs are set to get back on the ice as soon as Christmas is over.
The Chiefs will be one of 25 teams to play in the annual Mac’s AAA Midget World Invitational Hockey Tournament in Calgary starting Boxing Day.
Doug Quinn, Chiefs head coach, said the team is excited for the tournament.
“It’s an opportunity for them to showcase their abilities and skills,” said Quinn. “It’s a high profile tournament. There will be a lot of scouts with junior college teams there, and friends and family watching.”
The tournament gives the Chiefs a look at teams from across the country they typically wouldn’t play. Quinn said the past couple years, the team’s played a squad from Belarus at the tournament.
“That’s one of the things that makes it unique. It’s the best teams out of each league that show up, so it’s an opportunity for us to measure ourselves and see how we match up with some of the best teams in the country and elsewhere,” he said.
A team from New York will compete at the tournament this year.
The Chiefs were defeated in the 2017 tournament finals. Quinn said he isn’t sure what to expect at this year’s event.
“It’s probably one of the most difficult tournaments to win,” he said. “Last year we had to play six or seven games to get to the finals and it’s hard – it’s an endurance test. Sometimes success depends on how your schedule matches up with others.
“It’s one of the most prestigious tournaments to win and we’re certainly going there with that mindset. We’ll have to see how it goes.”
The Chiefs got a bit of practice against a top-tier hockey team Wednesday, when they fell to the U16 male Team Alberta squad 4-2 in an exhibition game at the Enmax Centrium.
Quinn said the game was a good learning experience for his team.
“It was certainly a challenge. Team Alberta has a lot of highly skilled players,” he said. “When you play against kids with a lot of speed and skill there’s a bit of adjustment for the guys.”
Quinn said the Chiefs showed a bit of fatigue after winning the Calgary Edge Sports School Western Challenge a week and a half ago, where the team played five games in four days.
“I thought we were average in the first half of the game,” he said. “I think that fatigue held us back, but I thought we skated better in the third.”
The Chiefs open the Mac’s AAA Midget World Invitational Hockey Tournament against Beardy’s Blackhawks on Boxing Day. The team also has games scheduled for Dec. 28, 29 and 30.
For more information, visit www.macstournament.ab.ca.