Listening to Brett Wold talk about this year’s edition of the Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs U18AAA hockey team it’s easy to flash back.
In 2012 and ‘13 the Red Deer Optimist Chiefs, under head coach Doug Quinn, used a four-line, six-defenceman philosophy to capture back-to-back Telus Cup national champions.
Wold has the same philosophy.
“Our motto is everyone plays, everyone contributes,” he said. “A couple games we’ve played this season teams are shortening their bench while we continue to run four lines … it wears teams down. We’ll grind it out with everyone involved … everyone is part of the team.”
Wold believes he has all the ingredients to make a run at the Alberta Female Hockey League title.
“All four lines are fast, can score and play a heavy game. I believe our back end is one of the best in the league and with (goalie) Mackenzie (Dojahn) backing them up we play with a lot of confidence.
“Mackenzie has proven herself as one of the top goalies in her age group in the province. She’s in the final four for Team Alberta. I’m bias but I believe she’s the best.”
As well Wold is confident in newcomer Ashtyn Berthiaume from Spruce Grove.
Overall Wold has nine players back from last year’s COVID shortened exhibition season, two of whom were regulars three years ago and two others who played with the Elite program and saw limited action with the Chiefs.
“Even through we didn’t play much last year the nine returnees understand our culture, they know what I want as a coach … what it’s like in the room, how to handle themselves 0ff the ice and how to treat others. That’s key for us, having them lead the way off and on the ice.”
Forwards Chloe Shingoose and Jolie Nafziger are in their third season with the Chiefs while Halle Graham saw brief action two years ago Hannah Bratrud and Sydney Hollman are in their second season.
On the blueline Megan Resch played briefly with the Chiefs in 2019-20 while Annalisa Trieber and Ryann Holbein are in their second year. Dojahn is also in her second year after playing with the Elite Chiefs in ‘19-20.
Wold sees more positives than negatives when it comes to looking back at a missed season.
‘You can see everyone is excited to be back in the rink and hungry. They want it more, they’re not taking things for granted. We’re all concentrating on the positives and not the negatives which could come from missing the year.”
Overall the Chiefs have three players from Red Deer — forwards Avery Wlasichuk and Graham and defenceman Madelynne Nafziger — and two from the County — Hollman and Holbein — with the majority of the rest from Central Alberta.
“The way the league is every year we’ll have out-of-towners,” said Wold. “But this year we have less billets than normal.”
Of the newcomers forwards Rylee McLeod is from Grande Prairie, and Genessie Williams from Stavely in southern Alberta while rearguard Bradlee Fisher comes from Hythe in northwest Alberta. Other rookies up front include Ava Greiner of Stettler, Belle Smith of Innisfail, Asha Kailey of Rocky View and Alyssa Shaw of Caroline. On defence Jaecia Joyce comes in from Olds.
The Chiefs have played a pair of games so far, losing one in overtime and one in a shootout.
“We could have won, but it’s been good so far. We’re still in a learning process … we’ll continue to build throughout the season.”
So far Trieber leads the team with a goal and one helper in the two starts.
“She’s been awesome … she’s aggressive, super coachable, just a great kid.”
Trieber is 16 and has one more year with the U18AAA program, but several players, including Dojahn are in their final season. Where they’ll end up is still up in the air.
“We’ve been good in the past, committing all our eligible girls to college and university,” added Wold. “So far this year no one has committed, but they’ve been talking to a lot of teams and there’s a lot of interest.”
The Chiefs return to action Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Gary W Harris Centre.
‘We play all our home games there and we do have fans,” said Wold.
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall iof Fame who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.