INNISFAIL – Innisfail hockey players Makenna Doel, Jayda Thompson and Samantha Thompson of the Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs helped their team win their first gold medal and league title at the Alberta Female Hockey League Midget Elite provincial championships.
The tournament took place in Sherwood Park from March 23 to 26.
“It’s such a rewarding feeling to know how far you’ve come throughout the whole season,” said 17-year-old blueliner Samantha Thompson on winning gold. She was joined by fellow Innisfailians Jayda Thompson (not related) and Doel. “It was a really big challenge for us and when we finally got the medal it was just so rewarding.”
Head coach Brad Koopmans had nothing but praise for his team and the three Innisfail players.
“I can’t say enough about the girls from Innisfail. Sam Thompson and Makenna Doel were both 17-year-olds with presence and leadership (on the ice),” said Koopmans. “They’re phenomenal kids, phenomenal athletes and just great leaders.
“Jayda Thompson played the gold medal game. In the whole tournament she only allowed one goal in the three games she played. She was phenomenal,” he added.
Although the Chiefs went undefeated in the tournament (3-0-1), the inaugural midget female elite provincial championships began with a bit of a wake-up call for the girls, noted Samantha Thompson, adding the first game against the Calgary Fire ended in a 2-2 tie.
“We knew exactly what to expect coming in (to the tournament) but we knew it wasn’t going to be a cakewalk,” said Samantha Thompson. “In the first game when we tied that really hit us hard. We knew we really needed to step up our game the next couple of games if we wanted to get to the gold medal and win.”
The Chiefs won the next three games with a 4-1 victory over the Edmonton Pandas, a 3-0 win over the Grande Prairie Peace Country Storm and a 4-0 victory over the host Sherwood Park Kings, which put them into the gold medal game against Grande Prairie.
They took the final in a hard fought 4-1 battle.
“We just kept our game simple, kept it calm and we knew what to do,” she said.
The midget female elite league was formed by Hockey Alberta this year and consists of 12 teams from across the province.
The Chiefs finished their regular season with 23 wins (including four overtime victories), three losses (including one overtime loss) and a total of 66 points for first place in the south division.
Samantha Thompson, Innisfail hockey player
“We knew we really needed to step up our game the next couple of games if we wanted to get to the gold medal and win.”