A very successful regular season wrapped up with playoff heartbreak for the Red Deer Midget AAA Optimist Chiefs on Wednesday.
The Chiefs fell 2-1 in quadruple overtime to the Royals in Calgary, losing the Division Semi-Final series in the process 3-1.
Chiefs Assistant Coach Al Parada says despite the loss, the team played great and deserved a better fate.
“For the first three periods, we kind of took it to them,” says Parada. “We had lots of chances but it’s that old adage, you don’t score on your opportunities early, sometimes it comes back to bite you in the butt.”
Parada acknowledged the strong play of the Royals as well.
“They’re very well coached and they have really good structure,” he points out. “They’ve got some skill, they’ve got some guys who can scoot and handle the puck and then their defense is pretty good. So give it to them, they played a good series and they played us really tough in our own rink.”
Looking back on the entirety of the season, Parada says some of the highlights included the growth of the kids.
“Watching them mature and just take that step closer to junior hockey and that’s what it’s all about. It’s a developmental league, so they really improve, they’re a really tight unit, they’re a tight team and I feel bad for the kids, they battled hard.”
Parada gave praise where praise is due though, acknowledging the strong play of several Chiefs players, including the team’s defensive core.
“Unfortunately, we were down a couple guys a few of the games,” reveals Parada. “We had to use some affiliates but those guys filled-in well and you know a guy like Cade Mason came back last night with a broken hand and played in a playing-cast and gave us great minutes, so I can’t say enough about their effort and how much they improved throughout the year. It’s ALL the kids, it’s not just a few.”
Looking ahead to the 2018-2019 season, Parada says he’s excited about the possibilities.
“Some of those Bantam AAA kids that are coming up, that will be 15, there’s a few that could make our team,” ponders Parada. “Then some of those 15’s, it’s a really good group in that 15 group and the guys that are coming back, we’ve got three 15-year-olds, we hope they all come back.”
Parada says they hope to get a few 16-year-olds back as well.
“We’d like to get them all back but sometimes that’s not the case,” admits Parada. “You know, the Junior teams are going to want a couple of those guys I would think but hopefully if they make the decision where they’re not going to play a lot in Junior, they come back and they take that next step at Midget.”
As for the team’s home ice switching from the Kinex Arena to the new Servus Arena this season, Parada agrees it’s a significant upgrade.
“The Kinex served its purpose while it was being built but that’s a nice rink, it’s just a nice rink to play out of and it was nice for us to get quite a few fans that last game that we played there and it was good for the kids,” says Parada. “I can’t say enough about the City, they did a great job on it.”
The Midget AAA Optimist Chiefs finished the Regular Season tied for first overall with the Lethbridge Midget AAA Hurricanes in the Alberta Midget Hockey League (AMHL), sporting a 24-5-6 record with 54 points.
(Story written from audio shared by Cam Moon)
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