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Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs have high expectations for AFHL season, aiming for nationals

Championship or bust
The U18 AAA Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs won the annual Firestarter tournament in Calgary last weekend with an undefeated record. (Photo by Renegades photography)

The U18 AAA Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs have nationals in their sights this season.

A year after falling just short of an appearance at the Esso Cup, the Women’s U18 National Club Championship, the Chiefs have revamped their squad for another run.

Head coach of the Chiefs Brett Wold explained in order for that to happen they recruited an additional eight Grade 12 players from other clubs.

“We’re a more experienced older team and we’ve just got a ton of depth,” he said. “We’ve got depth in goaltending, forwards, and defence this year so everything has come together really nice… We’re definitely excited for the season ahead.”

The defending Alberta Female Hockey League U18 AAA provincial champions also have five returning Grade 12 players making a whopping 13 veteran players on the squad.

In April, the Chiefs lost in the 2023 Pacific Regional Championship against the Fraser Valley Rush ending their season short of their goal of reaching the Esso Cup.

“Last year we hit a very deep Fraser Valley team and in terms of our depth I just felt like we didn’t have the depth to push farther,” Wold said.

“This year that was our goal to make sure we have the depth to try and take it to nationals.”

In total, they’ll have nine returning players but added 11 new players. Three of them are Grade 10s which include two who played on the U15 AA Chiefs and one who played on the Okotoks U15 team.

“It’s a special group,” he added. “It’s one of those situations where a group like this doesn’t come around too often so it’s about making the most of our opportunity.”

Wold anticipates their main strength will be in net as they’ll have two of the top three goaltenders in Alberta.

Ten Chiefs players are headed to Team Alberta’s top 28 camp this weekend. Two goalies, two defencemen, and six forwards will be taking part in the camp from the Chiefs.

Taya Christie is their returner between the pipes but they also picked up Olivia Davidson who played last season in St. Albert.

Last weekend the Chiefs competed in the annual Firestarter tournament in Calgary that featured 16 teams from Saskatchewan, B.C., Alberta, and one from California.

Throughout the tournament, they went undefeated to win the championship. The Chiefs went 3-0 in round robin and beat Notre Dame from Saskatchewan in the semi-finals before taking home the championship over Calgary in the final.

In other exhibition games, they beat the U18 AAA Calgary Fire twice but they also beat the Olds College Grizzly’s women’s hockey team 7-0.

“I think we kind of had a point to prove,” Wold said. “The girls wanted to show the league where we’re at and take the province by storm.”

Red Deer will begin the AFHL regular season on Saturday, Sept. 30 against the Rocky Mountain Raiders followed by their home opener on Sunday, Oct. 1 at the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre versus the Calgary Fire.

Ian Gustafson

About the Author: Ian Gustafson

Ian began his journalism career as a reporter in Prince Albert, Sask. for the last three years, and was born and raised in Saskatchewan.
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