Yukon’s bantam hockey team is headed to a gold ulu showdown with Alberta North tonight, after putting the NWT on ice last night in the semi-finals at the Yellowknife multiplex.
Yukon’s crisp passing and unshakable focus led to a solid 5-2 win over NWT.
Yukon players are looking forward to the final game rematch — they skated to a 1-1 tie against Alberta North in the round-robin.
“It’s good to get another chance to beat them, because we know we can,” said forward David Stephens, who scored two unassisted goals in Thursday’s semi-final.
The Alberta squad does not phase them.
“I thought they’d be a lot better than they are,” said left-winger Bryden Cook.
“We’re pleased with the way we’re playing right now,” said coach Dave Pearson.
The team came out of the round-robin with one win and three ties — undefeated, but in third place in the standings.
Although the team played well throughout its games, some unlucky bounces kept them off the scorecard.
“Lots of goalposts!” said Yukon coach Jim Stephens with a grin.
“Bantam hockey is a funny sport, we could have easily won or lost those games,” added Pearson.
“We missed a lot of opportunities; if we would have finished, we would have won it,” said right-winger Gib Pearson.
“We’d probably be the best team here.”
The Whitehorse bantam Mustangs and Team Yukon are essentially one and the same, and the Mustangs have had a stellar season thus far.
“We’ve won 75 per cent of our games … that’s pretty good for a team from Whitehorse,” said coach Pearson. The team has spent significant time on the road, playing tournaments in Kelowna, Comox and Edmonton. The experience shows on the ice.
“It’s about confidence; when they go to the net and shoot with some conviction, the puck seems to work better for them — when they’re not confident, they’re back on their heels and gripping their sticks a little bit and missing the shots they should get.”
It’s not all about winning for the bantams, however.
The Arctic Games offer the players a different feel than any other tournament they’ve been to.
“You get a chance to meet the other athletes, and get to know them a bit, everyone’s been really nice,” said Bryden Cook.
If the Arctic Games isn’t enough hockey for this team, they head to the BC/Yukon provincials before the sweat dries from the final.
“Half an hour after the game’s over, we hit the plane for Summerland, BC, for the provincial championships — we’ve got 12 games in 10 days, back to back,” said coach Pearson.
“We’ve been outskating every team out there,” said David Stephens, when asked about his team’s chances at the provincials.
“Seeing as how we’ve been playing lately, I think we might do pretty good,” added Gib Pearson.
Any thought of skipping the Arctics to prepare for the provincials was not even entertained.
“These kids missed the chance to come to the Arctics when they were in peewee, so it’s the first time for all of them, and they weren’t going to miss it — for sure.”