IROC 2 North Stars 1
The Red Deer IROC Chiefs didn’t turn in their best performance of the Sutter Cup tournament — the Alberta Minor Midget AAA Hockey League South Division playoffs — in the championship final but what they did do was bend but not break.
On the other hand the Red Deer North Star Chiefs turned in an outstanding performance, but couldn’t solve goaltender Joey Desrosiers as they dropped a 2-1 decision Sunday at the Arena.
“I have to give them credi,t they came hard and I felt we were on our heals the entire game,” said IROC head coach Tom Bast.
“We didn’t play the way we’re capable of, but we found a way to do it. That’s something this team has done all season — find a way when we didn’t have our A game. I was proud of the boys, they grinded it out.”
He also mentioned the play of goaltender Joey Desrosiers, who finished with 34 saves.
“A lot of credit to both Joey and (Thomas) Della Siega,” continued Bast. “We shifted them back and forth all season. Today we had great goaltending and I honestly believe Joey stole that game for us.”
Bast felt the North Stars were the fresher of the two teams.
“I thought our guys would come out with a lot of energy because of the Red Deer-Red Deer series and it being the final, but we looked a bit fatigued, except for a brief spell in the second period . . . we were lucky.”
The teams exchanged goals in the opening period, despite the fact the North Stars finished with a 14-4 edge in shots. IROC’s Dylan Houston opened the scoring at 16:27 with a quick snap shot through the legs of goaltender Rylan Bardick and Andrew Nielsen tied it at 18:58 with a blast from the point five seconds after an IROC penalty. Nielsen had his shot go off the post, Desrosiers’ leg and just over the line.
Tournament MVP, Colton Bobyk, notched the winner with a blast from the point, also on a power play at 11:23 of the second period.
“He’s a gamer,” said Bast talking about Bobyk. “But then we have 19 kids, who are gamers. They did a good job of pulling through as a team.”
While Bast realized his team deserved credit for finding a way to win, North Star head coach Jeff Denham couldn’t have been happier with his squad.
“I am extraordinary proud of my group of young men,” he said. “They handled themselves with class and dignity and played their hearts out. They sacrificed and were as disciplined as I’ve seen that group all year.
“They played with passion, blocked shots and overcame injuries.”
The biggest injury came at 13:38 of the middle period when Bardick slid out to knock the puck away from a defender and crashed into his own player. He lay on the ice for several minutes before being helped to the dressing room. He went to the hospital for precautionary reasons with a suspected concussion.
The North Stars were already without goalie Jayden Sittler and had to insert Carson Franks, who was a call up from the bantam AAA Rebels Black.
The North Stars did a great job of limiting shots on Franks, who stopped the seven shots he faced.
“I was proud of him, he did an admirable job in a difficult situation,” said Denham. “But overall our defence was excellent and was difficult to get through. But they had a great goaltender and they’re a great team. I wish to congratulate all of them and look forward to playing them in the provincials.”
Both Red Deer teams along with the host Calgary Gold and three teams out of the North Division meet in the provincials in two weeks at the Max Bell Arenas.
Bast would have liked to pressure Franks a bit more, but couldn’t say enough about the North Stars defence.
“They did a hell of a job,” he said. “They put up a wall and we had problems even getting shots.”
The North Stars had a 13-5 edge in shots in the third period and had a glorious opportunity to tie the game in the final seconds with Chase Thudium alone in front.
“He had the puck just roll off the toe of his stick and shot it just wide,” said Denham. “It was one of those things.”
Denham also couldn’t have been happier to see both Red Deer teams in the final.
“It’s an awesome thing to see three AAA teams doing so well,” he said talking about the two minor midget AAA teams and the Red Deer Midget Rebels. “I’m privileged to be part of it.
“There’s a lot of depth in the Red Deer and surrounding area. I can’t say enough about how well the kids mesh together. They play against each other and then come together in a group and bond so well as a team.”
The IROC Chiefs reached the final with a 6-1 win over the Calgary Blackhawks while the North Stars needed a late goal from Thudium to edge the Calgary Canucks 3-2.
Bobyk had three goals for IROC while Scott Ternes, Carter Sawicki and Jordie Lawson added single markers. Della Siega allowed a goal in 13 shots over two periods while Desrosiers had seven saves.
Thudium scored on a rebound at 16:36 of the third period. Ryan Swier and Allan Pruss added single markers while Bardick made 22 saves.
• Bardick finished with 11 saves . . . Bobyk, a defenceman, finished the tournament with eight goals and six assists in five games.