Raiders 5 Chiefs 2
What started out as a promising season for the Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs, turned into one of survival.
They were finally dragged down for good on Saturday.
The Chiefs Alberta Major Bantam Female Hockey League season came to an end as they were swept by the Rocky Mountain Raiders in their best-of-three South semifinal, losing 5-2.
“I am extremely proud of the way we played, after the season we’ve had with all of the injuries and not having a full lineup for a lot of our games, we really pulled it together at the end,” said Chiefs head coach Allyson Bendfeld. “They worked the hardest I’ve seen them work all year, they really wanted the series and they showed it out there today.”
Brooklyn Park and Megan Benoit scored for Red Deer in Saturday’s game while Chantelle Sandquist made 29 saves.
The Chiefs (10-14-2-0) finished the regular season in fourth place in the South Division and then cruised by the Southeast Tigers (2-24-0-0) in the first round of the playoffs.
But the Chiefs were just outgunned by the first place Raiders (18-4-1-3), who also beat Red Deer 3-1 in Cochrane in Game 1 on Thursday.
“I don’t think there was much of a difference, they were just able to put a few more pucks in the net than we were,” said Bendfeld. “They were able to bury their opportunities and we weren’t quite able to pull that off in this series against them.”
The biggest issue for the Chiefs all season was their long-standing relationship with the injury bug. All five of their top scorers missed multiple games through the season due to injury.
This cost them valuable points and positioning — not to mention continuity — forcing them to play the extra play-in series against the Tigers and then set them up to play the powerhouse Raiders this weekend.
It was a tough path for any team to take on.
“We had quite a few injuries after Christmas and we had a rough few weeks in this last half of the season,” said Bendfeld. “But coming into the playoffs we had our full lineup and the girls were able to take advantage of it.”
The Chiefs were led this year by Jade Bussard who had 19 points (nine goals, 10 assists) in 20 games while Shae Demale had 18 points (9-9-18) in 24 games, Kaley Mueller 14 points (12-2-14) in 21 games and Benoit had 13 points (8-5-13) in 21 games.
Their two goalies split time in the crease with Sandquist posting a 7-8-0 record with a 2.78 goals against average and a .900 save percentage while Mandi Fitzsimons was 3-7-2 with a 3.37 G.A.A. and a .870 save percentage.
This was a veteran team with only a couple of returning players next season, but Bendfeld there is a lot of talent moving on up to midget.
“I think these girls in the next couple of years, you’ll see them step up into that AAA role and there’s going to be a lot of good things happening in a couple of years with that program,” said Bendfeld.