The Reds united. Players of Calgary Fire Red Midget Elite team prepare to celebrate their Alberta championship win in Grande Prairie on March 31, 2019. © J. Ashley Nixon
It was a season of hard work in practices and determination in the games. Camaraderie amongst teammates, and of course a lot of fun with Fire. Everything came down to one game on Sunday, March 31 in Grande Prairie, when Fire Red faced off against St. Albert Sharks in the gold medal final. The Reds won, 5-1 and went back south 716 km to Calgary with the Alberta Provincial Champions (Midget Female Elite) banner on board the bus.
Playing back the season
Fire Red won all five of their provincial playoff games. This magnificent accomplishment was the culmination of a superb 2018-19 season. The team totalled 61 points from 26 games to tie the top spot in the southern division with Calgary Fire White. They had just three regular time losses and ended up with the most goals scored (89) and the best goal difference in the Alberta Female Hockey League.
The road to gold
The Fire Red road to gold in Grande Prairie began on Thursday, March 28 with a win over the hosts, Peace Country Storm, 2-0 at the Coca-Cola Centre. The Red team won in overtime against Calgary Fire White (4-3), the next day and in their second game won 1-0 over St. Albert Sharks. The Reds won their Saturday game against Sherwood Park Fury with their third shut-out, 3-0.
Into the final
By the end of the first period, neither St. Albert, who made their way into the final despite losses to both of the Calgary Fire teams, nor Fire Red had scored. Calgary got onto the scoreboard first with an even-strength goal scored seven minutes into the second period. The play started with a pass from Olivia Sutton to Jennifer Nixon from behind her own goal line. Nixon quickly passed up to Kaitlyn Severson who took the puck into the St. Albert zone and made a deft drop-pass to Hannah Suto, just inside the St. Albert blue line. Her shot went into the left side of the net surprising the Sharks goalie, Laney Pasemko before she could get her blocker across.
The Red’s Kelly Stanford was called two minutes for tripping at around the 11-minute mark and St. Albert went on the power play. Thirty seconds in with the player advantage, Julianna Giacobbo passed left across the blue line to Kirsten Legge who shot the puck in. Calgary’s goalie, Cassidy Brown saved but the rebound from her pads went right onto the stick of Regan Ackroyd who scored glove side. Calgary survived the start of a four-minute penalty awarded to Adria Lubert for head contact- a retaliatory blow to the helmet after she was slashed up against the boards. The teams went down the tunnels for a break with a tied game on their hands.
Kitchen’s winning wrister
With just under eight minutes remaining in the game, St. Albert was penalized for a tripping offence. The Sharks did a good job of keeping the puck up tight against the boards but with less than 20 seconds to go, Suto managed to gain control and passed to Julia McEwen who moved the puck right over to Teah Workman. She deked a St Albert defender and passed the puck left over to Ella Kitchen who immediately wristed the puck under the glove of Pasemko. It was a great team play and the Reds were back in the lead, 2-1.
The game remained tightly contended but with just over three minutes to go, Stanford scored a peach of a goal, picking up the puck outside the St. Albert blue line, beating two defenders and shooting a well-placed shot beyond the reach of Pasemko’s blocker. The Sharks hit their panic button and pulled their goalie. With long distance vision, McEwen saw an opportunity and struck an audacious shot from up against the boards on her own goal line into the empty net, 200 foot away. With just over a minute left to play, and with the Calgary bench spilling over with joyful emotion, Skye Mathews took the puck into the St. Albert zone from her own half, put in a speculative shot and beat Pasemko five-hole. The Sharks were tanked. Game over, 5-1 and the Calgary Fire Red players jumped through the bench gate to celebrate their provincial championship win.
Song of the playoffs
Four members of the parent crew in Grande Prairie made an epic 200 km quest to Tumbler Ridge, BC in between games to see the Iron Throne. It had been placed, temporarily, on the banks of Babcock Creek in Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark to promote the final six-episode-series of one of the best and certainly the most epic of telly tales, which starts on April 14, 2019 on the HBO Channel. With no other front runners in sight, the song of the playoffs goes to the theme tune of Game of Thrones.
More action from the game
Please visit J. Ashley Nixon Communications to see more photos from Fire Red in the 2018 Alberta Provincial Championships.