Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs Sydney Hughson barrels into the offensive zone as Edmonton Pandas defender Sydney Olsen chases her down earlier this season. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs ready to roll for Provincials

The Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs struggled with consistency this season, only to put it all together when it mattered most.

They finished 9-18-3 in the Alberta Female Hockey League regular season, before sweeping the Edmonton Pandas in a best-of-three series to earn a spot in the Midget Female AAA Hockey Alberta Provincials.

The sweep didn’t come without some drama, as the Chiefs needed a six-round shootout after double overtime was unable to determine a winner. Chantelle Sandquist turned aside 32 shots in regulation and stopped the final Edmonton shooter before Aryn Chambers scored the shootout winner for Red Deer in the 2-1 series-clinching win.

“It was certainly an odd game. I thought the first period was pretty even, then they took it to us in the second. They won all the puck races and seemed to come out on top,” said Chiefs coach Bob Rutz.

“We found a way to tie it up. I thought we were the better team in the two overtimes. Then we pulled it out in a shootout. We stayed patient, stuck with it, our goaltender made the saves she needed to.”

Red Deer will have to play a double-dip to start the provincial tournament in St. Albert. They will play at noon Friday against the defending champion and two-time Canadian female midget AAA champion St. Albert Slash, then turn around at 5:30 p.m. and play the Lloydminster Steelers.

The Chiefs head coach noted that if his team can put the inconsistency behind them, they have a good shot pulling off an upset at the tournament.

“We’ve struggled with consistency. At times our compete and our work ethic– just our whole level of play and execution is at a really high level and we play some of the tough teams in the league really well. Even at tournaments as well,” Rutz said.

Then there’s other times where we get into trouble because we have trouble playing for 60 minutes. I’d like to think those days are behind us and that we’re ready to compete because you’re going to have to against the four best teams in the province.”

Rutz also believes through all the rigours of the season, his team is ready for the challenge at provincials. Although their regular season record may not reflect it, he thinks they’ve got a real shot at a provincial title. It is their third trip to the year-end tournament in the last three seasons.

“Anything can happen. Two years ago, if we score one more goal, St Albert is eliminated and we’re in the gold medal final,” Rutz said.

“It’s just one of those tournaments that you have to compete and play on demand. You can’t take a period off or wait to see what they’re going to do. We’re going to be prepared and we know exactly what teams are doing.”

Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

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