The Wheatland Chiefs finished off their wire-to-wire South Central Alberta Hockey League campaign as the top team in the division.
“We knew we had a good team coming into the year, but if you told me that we would only lose twice, I would have laughed at you,” said Chiefs assistant coach Matt Gass. “That never happens.”
The local double-A midget team torched the 11-22-3 Central Alberta Selects 5-1 March 4 at the Strathmore Family Centre.
After a scoreless, physical opening frame that saw 150 penalty minutes handed out, Marshall Wilson put the Selects in front with his ninth of the year.
From that point onward, the Chiefs (31-2-3) dominated, scoring five consecutive goals.
Chayse Hnatowich and Rylan Longmuir each finished with a goal and an assist, as other markers came from Lucas Muenchrath, Kale Clouston and Riley Romashenko.
Not only did the Chiefs control the standings, they also owned the league leader board.
Isaac Benoit finished as the top scorer with 38 goals, 26 assists and 64 points. Hnatowich placed third, with 26 goals, 29 assists and 59 points. Romashenko finished fifth with 22 goals, 26 assists and 48 points.
“That just goes to show you that we didn’t get this done with just one player or one line,” said Gass. “This was the most talented group of forwards I’ve ever worked with, and our defensive core played most of the season down one of our best skaters.”
The Chiefs also boasted the best goaltending tandem in the SCAHL. Ty Tarvyd led the league with a microscopic 1.40 goals against average, carried a .940 save percentage and never lost a game. His 16 wins were good enough for second place.
Riley Stovka was right behind Tarvyd in every category. He finished with a 13-2-1 record with a 2.42 goals against average and .900 save percentage.
The Chiefs now turn their attention to the playoff tournament March 9-12 in Medicine Hat.
“I definitely feel more pressure heading into playoffs this year compared to last year. We only lost two games all year; teams are going to be coming at us hard. It’s the type of tournament where one bad goal, one bad period can end your season,” said Gass.
The Chiefs opened the tournament against the Foothills Bisons (4-30-2) March 9, and battle the Okotoks Oilers Green (13-18-5) on March 10. They finish the three-game round robin play March 11 against the Lethbridge Hurricanes (10-17-9). The semis and finals are slated for March 12.
Winner of the South tournament will take on the winner from the North tournament next weekend in a best-of-three series to determine who will be moving on to provincials.
Last season, the Chiefs lost to Red Deer in the North-South series.
Warriors rolling into playoff tournament
The Wheatland Warriors were five minutes away from heading into playoffs on a four-game winning streak.
The local double-A bantam team (12-17-5) and Airdrie Lightning (10-22-2) skated to a 3-3 tie March 5 at the Strathmore Family Centre.
Nolan Bailey, Kage Yellowfly and Zach Stangness registered goals, putting the Warriors up 3-2 midway through the third. Lightning-affiliated player Hunter Burgeson scored with 4:49 remaining, forcing the draw. Corey Ross racked up 24 saves.
The Warriors edged the 13-16-6 Bow Valley Timberwolves 5-3 March 3 at the Strathmore Family Centre.
Mitch Tessemaker buried a pair and added one helper, as Yellowfly recorded one goal and one assist, with singles coming from Austin Kuryk and Trey Gillis. Logan Grant stopped 30 shots for his ninth win.
The Warriors South division tournament kicked off March 9 against the Lethbridge Hurricanes (20-10-4) in Okotoks. They take on the Okotoks Oilers (20-6-8) on March 10, and battle the Taber Golden Suns (23-9-2) in their final round robin game. The semis and final are slated for March 12.
Like the Chiefs playoff tournament, the winner from the South will take on the winner from the North next weekend at a chance to go to provincials.
Last season, the Warriors won the South tournament and swept the Central Alberta Selects, on their way to provincials.
Braves end season on a high
Matthew Dovichak saved his best performance of the season for the finale, as he made 15 saves for his first shutout.
The Wheatland Braves (10-19-4) blanked the 2-27-4 Central Alberta Selects 6-0 March 4 at the Strathmore Family Centre.
Cole Whelan sniped one goal and two assists, Garrin Gosling finished with two goals, and Ryder Many Grey Horses, Philip Raycroft and Nolan Mahussier recorded one goal and one assist.
The Braves and Cranbrook Wings (3-28-2) skated to a 5-5 tie March 3 at Hussar Arena.
Cyle Clayton scored a pair and added one assist; Gosling supplied one of each, with singles coming from Nolan Bell and Mahussier. Dovichak made 11 stops.
The Braves are currently in Olds for their North division playoff tournament that wraps up March 12 at the Olds and District Sports Complex.