Red Wings sweep final to win first title

High Prairie Red Wings’ coaches raise the West Division championship trophy in victory. Standing, left-right, are assistant coach Ryder Prue, head coach and general manager Kevin Hopfner and assistant coach Bruce Cunningham.

Richard Froese
South Peace News

High Prairie is the best in the West.

The High Prairie Red Wings won the first West Division championship in Greater Metro Junior A Hockey League history Saturday night.

Dominating the division all season, the red-hot Red Wings swept the Slave Lake Icedogs in three straight games in the best-of five final series.

The Red Wings captured the crown after defeating the Slave Lake Icedogs 7-1 May 22 in Game 3 in High Prairie.

“At the start of the season, we were projected to finish third and here we are, West Division champions.” says Kevin Hopfner, in his first year as the Red Wings head coach and general manager.

The Red Wings beat the Icedogs 7-3 in the second game May 21 and 7-1 in the opening game May 19.

Mikal Chalifoux popped a pair of goals in the final game for the Red Wings, who scored two goals 56 seconds into the game and led 5-0 in the first period at 8:31.

Darby Berg, Dayton Shantz, Natan Boucher, Hayden Weasel Head and Larry Yellowknee also scored for High Prairie.

Shots on goal were not available.

High Prairie ended the season on a 24-game winning streak, including five in the playoffs.

After losing its first three games in the regular season, the Red Wings won their next 19 games.

“At this level, not many teams go on a winning streak and run it to the end,” Hopfner says.

“I’m extremely proud with how the boys played and held their composure,” Hopfner says.

“In the playoffs, the teams we played threw everything at us and we just stuck to our system and it paid off for us.”

It was not the first time he won a championship with a High Prairie hockey team. Hopfner played for the High Prairie Regals that won four consecutive championships in the North Peace Hockey League from 1982-83 to 1985-86.

Chalifoux scored three goals in the game May 21 for the Red Wings, who led 3-2 after the first period and 6-2 after 40 minutes.

Blake Anderson popped a pair. Thayne Schur-Auger and Benny Yellowknee also scored for the Red Wings.

High Prairie outshot Slave Lake 46-34 as Bradley Roncin was in the net for the Red Wings.

Anderson popped a pair of goals in the first game. Berg, Theo Cunningham, John Yellowknee, Jeremy Brooks and Larry Yellowknee also scored for High Prairie.

Each team fired 30 shots of goal in the game as Roncin was in net for the Red Wings.

High Prairie became the first champion of the West Division that completed its second season in the GMHL.

The Red Wings celebrated alone as no fans were allowed in the arenas during COVID-19 restrictions in Alberta.

Playoffs in the 2019-20 were cancelled when the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in March 2020.

West Division teams and GMHL officials trust the COVID-19 restrictions will ease in the next few months that will allow for a full 42-game regular season scheduled to start in October.

The High Prairie Red Wings are ready to receive the championship trophy for the West Division in the Greater Metro Junior A Hockey League. Standing, left-right, are captain Mikal Chalifoux, West Division expansion director Derek Prue and Red Wings’ player Larry Yellowknee.

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