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RODE: Parker Small strong contributor on Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs top line


Parker Small had no idea when she joined the Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs she’d be part of the premier line in the Alberta Female Hockey League U18AAA Division.

Parker, who played with the Chiefs U15AA program last season, played a large portion of this season with the top two scorers in the conference: Lyvia Butz, who was No. 1 with 23 goals, 22 assists, and 45 points, and Chloe Goofers, who was second with 43 points in 19 goals and 24 assists.

Small, tied for fourth with 31 points in 30 games with nine goals and 22 helpers.

“I was lucky to be able to play with them on a line … it was a super fun year,” said Small. “We’ve been together on and off, but when we’ve been together, we’ve played our best.”

“Parker has fit right in as a first-year player,” said Chiefs head coach Brett Wold. “She’s played with two of our third-year players and she’s done a good job of thinking the game at their high level. It’s been a pleasure coaching her.”

That line will be counted on as the defending provincial champion Chiefs host the provincial U18AAA championships, running March 21-24 at the Servus Arena.

The 15-year-old from Sylvan Lake got into skating when she was four and started playing boys hockey at the U7 level.

“As soon as I started playing I fell in love with it … I loved the people I played with, that’s where I made my friends.”

She played boys hockey until the U13 level when she joined the West Central Tigers. The following season she moved to Red Deer with the U15AA Chiefs.

“From the time I got into bantam, I knew I had a good opportunity to play with the U18AAA team,” she said. “I stayed in touch with them and knew I’d be part of the team when I moved up.”

Parker is listed at five-foot-three but isn’t afraid to play the game with physicality.

“It’s good I don’t mind, it makes it enjoyable,” she said.

She’s a strong skater and sees herself as a passer more than a scorer.

“I’ve taken skating lessons since I was younger and consider myself a good skater, which you have to be anymore,” she said. “And I’ve always incorporated playmaking into my game.”

Parker finished the regular season on a roll, collecting points in nine straight games with two goals and 11 assists.

Small is looking forward to provincials. She helped the U15AA squad finish third last season.

“We hosted last year at the same arena, so I do know what to expect,” she said. “I wouldn’t mind playing here (Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre) as we have our dressing room here, but it shouldn’t matter. The competition will be tough … we have to play our game.”

The Chiefs have nine players returning from last year’s club.

“Having that experience is invaluable,” said Wold, who is in his fifth season as head coach of the Chiefs and eighth with the club. This is his final season as he’s stepping away to be with his young family.

“I have a couple younger kids I want to spend more time with,” he said. “Red Deer Minor Hockey will decide on a new coach and they’ve already started on the process. We want this program to continue to be strong.”

The league will expand to eight teams next season, with Sherwood Park and a second Calgary team entering.

It could impact the Chiefs’ recruiting area, but Wold feels very little will change.

“We get a lot of players out of Central Alberta and the rural areas, which the cities don’t,” he said. “Hopefully, we still get the players from Grande Prairie and Lethbridge areas.”

The Chiefs go into the provincials as the top team in the league, finishing at 24-5-1 for 72 points, eight ahead of the Edmonton Jr. Oilers White.

The Calgary Fire is the third team involved as they downed the Rocky Mountain Raiders 2-0 in a best-of-three play-in series while the St. Albert Slash and Lloydminster Steelers meet this weekend in the other series.

The Chiefs play a game a day starting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 21. They play at 4:45 p.m. March 22 and 4 p.m. March 23. Where they finish in the round-robin will determine the time they play on March 24. The top two teams play in the gold and other two for bronze. The Alberta winner advanced to the Pacific playdowns prior to the ESSO Cup.

Parker still has two years remaining with the Chiefs and hopes to receive an NCAA Division I scholarship.

“If not, there’s other options like U Sport,” she said.

There’s also college hockey, such as the RDP Queens and the ACAC.

“A lot more options available now,” she said. “Having the PWHL (Professional Women’s Hockey League) start was huge … there’s lot more things happening with women’s hockey … really good for the game. Girls hockey has improved so much, I like how competitive it’s become.”

The defending provincial champion Chiefs U18AA squad plays in provincial playdowns this weekend in a best-of-three against Rocky Mountain Raiders. All three games are at the Collicutt Centre — Friday at 7:15 p.m. and Saturday and if needed Sunday at 2:15 p.m. Winner advances to the provincials, March 28-31 in Okotoks.

The U15AA Chiefs will compete in the provincials March 21-24 in Airdrie.

Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at