By Jerret Semczyzyn
Special to Black Press
For Red Deer Optimist Chiefs assistant captain Jacob Schofield, coming into the Telus Cup midget AAA hockey championship flying was how he intended to kick of the tournament.
He did just that on Monday afternoon, as he posted a goal and a pair of assists in a 5-1 opening-day victory against the Laval-Montreal Royal of Quebec.
“It was my goal to come out flying, fire the team up and just be a leader out there,” Schofield said. “That’s what I thought I did, and that’s what I’ve got to keep doing throughout this tournament. The win felt good.”
His efforts earned him player of the game honours, much to the delight of the Chiefs’ faithful that made the trek from Red Deer to Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., to take in the action.
The defending Telus Cup champs came out flying in their opening game of the tournament, scoring just under four minutes in.
Jody Sick deflected a hard pass from Jacob Schofield to give the Chiefs the early lead, and with little over four minutes remaining in the first period, Ryker Leer beat Royal goaltender Alexandre Duckett with a slick backhander on a partial breakaway to give the Chiefs a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
The Royal cut the lead in half three minutes into the second frame on a play by Marc-Antoine Germain that caught Chiefs off-guard, as the shot eluded the sprawling goaltender Matt Zentner and trickled over the goal line.
Just four minutes later, the Chiefs restored their two-goal lead courtesy of a 5-on 3 power play goal by Chase Thudium.
Red Deer killed off a key Laval-Montréal 5-on-3 at the midway point of the second, capped off by a spectacular left-pad save by Zentner. The Chiefs brought a 3-1 lead into the second intermission.
Jack Goranson finished off a nifty passing play to add to the Chiefs’ lead in the third period, and Schofield added a late goal to seal the 5-1 victory.
Schofield said a mixture of pressure and nerves was the feeling before the team took to the ice, but the early goal enabled the team to focus.
“It was a little bit nerve racking because we came here looking to win, and to score that first goal it kind of settled the nerves,” Schofield said. “We became relaxed, and we got to our game.”
Red Deer head coach Doug Quinn was pleased with his team’s start, but said he does not want his team to become overly excited about the win on Monday.
“I thought it was a good start for us,” he said. “I thought we played pretty well in the first period, but I don’t want to get too excited. Their goalie let in a few soft ones, which certainly was an advantage for us. Overall, I thought we played well.”
Laval-Montréal’s head coach André Wilsey said a slow start and a lack of discipline lead to the loss or his team on day one of the tournament.
“We started slowly, but we can play better than we did this game,” Wilsey said. “We took too many penalties at bad times, and we missed some shots. Red Deer has a great team, and next game we need to be ready if we want to win.”
The Chiefs were scheduled to return to action Tuesday evening when they took on the host Sault Ste. Marie North Stars on Day 2 of round-robin play.