With their playoff hopes on the line, the U18 AAA Red Deer Optimist Chiefs in their final stretch of games are on the outside looking in.
In the Alberta Elite Hockey Hockey League (AEHL) the top six teams from each division make the postseason. The Chiefs, who currently sit in seventh place in the South Division, are five points behind the Calgary Northstars.
With four games remaining, the Optimist Chiefs will need to win at least three of those to earn a spot with a record of 11-18-2-3.
However, it all depends on how the Northstars finish their final three games.
It’s all a tall task for Red Deer but head coach Tyler Lightbown said it’s important for his team to stay positive.
“Hockey is a game of mistakes so when things go wrong it’s more about how you react to them rather than the actual mistakes,” he said. “Our message to the guys is no matter what’s going on we stay up, we stay positive, and we keep pushing forward.
“We’ve got to work together as much as possible and trust each other. That’s the only way we’re going to get through it.”
This weekend the Chiefs are on the road to play the Calgary Flames on Saturday and the Okotoks Oilers on Sunday. A week later they’ll play their final two games at home head-to-head with the Northstars on Feb. 18 and the Calgary Royals on Feb. 19.
Lightbown explained his team needs to find more consistency. That’s easier said than done with players in and out of the lineup due to injury.
“I think this entire season we’ve played about three games with our full roster so we need a complete effort from whoever’s in the lineup,” he added.
“It’s coming right down to the wire so a good effort and some composure knowing you can’t win all four games at once. You’ve got to take it shift by shift and chip away at it. We’re set up to hopefully have a strong finish.”
The Chiefs bench boss said the adversity had led this group to be very resilient in playing shorthanded. They know what it takes to win but also what to avoid.
“A couple of times in the year we won three of four or four of five… It wouldn’t surprise me at all if it comes right down to the final game.
We’d like to be sitting in a nice comfortable playoff spot and play out these last few games but the reality is we’ve been playing playoff hockey since December.”