Sutter Fund Chiefs carry on despite loss of key players

It won’t be an easy start to the Alberta Major Midget Female Hockey League season for the Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs.

It won’t be an easy start to the Alberta Major Midget Female Hockey League season for the Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs.

The Chiefs lost the majority of their top players from last season plus three players who could have returned.

The Red Deer squad has five players returning — all up front — while the defence and goaltending took a hit when provincial team defenceman Taryn Baumgardt decided to join Warner Hockey Academy and both goaltenders — Megan Kirkland and Jennifer West — didn’t return. Kirkland is attending University in the Maritimes and West has joined the Pacific Steelers in Vancouver.

But new head coach Curtis Scutchings, who led the midget A Chiefs to the provincial title last year, can’t worry about that.

He likes the girls he has.

“We have 14 new players to the league, but they’ve played a lot of hockey and have a lot of character and work hard in practice.

“They need to get used to the speed of the league, but they’ll get there,” he said. “I really call this an opportunity for the new players. An opportunity for them to make the adjustment and be midget AAA players.”

The veteran players — Taylor Hall, Presley Hollman, Krista Wilson, Shelby Schlosser and Reanna Arnold — are expected to be team leaders.

“We could be pretty strong up front,” said Scutchings, whose team lost 4-1 Saturday at the Collicutt Centre and 5-2 Sunday in Calgary to the Calgary Flyers.

“We also have a lot of youth and maybe the younger players will drive the veterans to be better all-around players.”

Both goaltenders — Ali Andersen and Nisa Bartlett — played with Scutchings last year.

“They’re both young and two of our hardest workers. They’re getting a lot of shots, and hopefully they get used to that and it will be that much better as we cut them down as we go along,” said Scutchings, who has only one 17-year-old on defence in Katie Griffiths, who hasn’t played for three years.

Fourteen-year-old Abagael Thiessen could still be playing bantam AAA, but has shown already she belongs at the higher level.

She’s joined on the blueline by 15-year-old Quinci Jones, who is also up from the Red Deer bantam AAA squad and 16-year-olds Katlynn Kyle, Becky Crowley and Britni Crawford. Crawford and Kyle played with the midget A squad and Crowley played midget in Innisfail.

Up front Autumn Woelk, Rylee Kramer and Wendy Bell are the other imports. Woelk played bantam B in Stettler, Kramer played midget in Innisfail and Bell in Olds.

Alexandra Silbernagel, who played midget A, and bantam AAA grads Becky Davidson and Jade Lee round out the forwards.

Scutchings is new to the AAA level, but has coached girls’ hockey for six years in Red Deer and in Edmonton prior to that.

“I watched a lot of hockey at this level so I know what to expect,” he said. “It’s also an honor to be here and I’m looking forward to the year. It’s a fun group.”

Derek Davidson, Cara Lee and goaltender coach Brad Weatherill are working with Scutchings.

Arnold scored the Chiefs lone goal Saturday with Crawford and Lee connecting Sunday.

Andersen made 49 saves Saturday with Bartlett finishing with 36 Sunday.

The Chiefs next action is Friday at Spruce Grove.

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