Considering the Whitehorse Huskies outscored the visiting Kainai Braves 18-2 over a two-game series Jan. 7 and 8, it’s bizarre one of the games ended in overtime.
Frankly, one would be hard pressed to find a more asymmetric two-game series in hockey.
The Huskies swept the series with a nail-biting 2-1 overtime win Saturday and a runaway 16-1 win Sunday at Takhini Arena.
“It was two different teams. Last night’s work ethic was there. Tonight — I couldn’t even tell you — it just wasn’t there,” said Braves goalie Tyler Cutknife. “No one came to play today. It’s all I can say about that.”
The series began with two scoreless periods — an extreme rarity for the offensively strong Huskies team — before Huskies forward Kevin Petovello posted the first goal of the game five minutes into the third, assisted by captain Derek Klassen and Ted Stephens.
As spectators got set to head for the exits, Braves’ Ian Creighton sent it to overtime on a goal with 8.8 seconds left on the clock.
Just over a minute into overtime, Huskies assistant captain Rob Warner found the five-hole for his first overtime game-winner as a Husky. Simon Nugent and Stephens assisted.
“Basically, you get Ted the puck and he does what he does. He’s so good with control and everything like that, you find an open space and he’ll give it to you,” said Warner.
“It’s always great playing at home in front of the fans and that afternoon we had a great turnout,” he added. “It’s great to see the hockey community growing up here.”
Then came the blowout. Whitehorse fans cheered the first six or so goals, applauded the next five, and mostly sat quiet (or left) as a communal feeling of awkwardness and sympathy filled the arena.
It marked the first time in known Huskies history one of their games ended with a running clock after staff from both teams signed off on the idea. It was the humane thing to do.
“We wanted to get out of there,” said Huskies head coach Michael Tuton. “That second period, third period, couldn’t finish fast enough for us. We just wanted to get the game in the log books and move on.”
“They just weren’t ready to play tonight and the Huskies were. I give a tremendous amount of credit to these guys — they’re always ready when the puck drops.”
Not only did Sunday’s game set the team record for most goals in a single game, it also set a new benchmark for most unanswered goals with 11.
One notable change between Saturday and Sunday for the Braves, a First Nations team from Blood Indian reserve in southern Alberta, was the loss of their starting goalie, Cutknife, midway through the first period. Cutknife, who made a bevy of outstanding saves Saturday, left Sunday’s game with a minor knee injury.
“We didn’t have the full roster from back home; a couple people had work commitments and with it being right after Christmas we had to call a few guys up,” said Braves head coach Kyle Tailfeathers. “(We had) a few injuries from last night’s game and it just steamrolled from there. Our number one goalie got hurt … he felt a little tweak in his knee and decided to shut down.”
Huskies goalie Jon Olthuis of Calgary played his third game for the Huskies Saturday, logging his third win for team. He played the first two periods Sunday before backup goalie Brian Power went in.
Klassen led the team in points Sunday with three goals and four assists. Petovello led in scoring with four goals and was named “Top Dog” by his teammates, an honour that comes with the donning of a cute but unflattering husky dog hat.
“He kept if for about three seconds and handed it over to Brian Power,” said Tuton. “It’s nice to recognize those guys who are in a tough role, being a backup goaltender, showing up for every practice and being ready.”
Also on Sunday, forward Kane Dawe had three goals and three assists; Rob Stuckey two goals and two assists; and Stephens one goal and three assists. Huskies Nugent, Andrew Pettitt and Tyrell Hope each contributed a goal and assist.
“I’m really proud of my boys and the class that the Huskies showed, and we talked about that between periods, how important it is to represent Whitehorse, a place everyone loves so much,” said Tuton. “The guys take a lot of pride in being Huskies.”
With the series the Huskies have their mandatory six B.C. Hockey-recognized games to qualify for the Coy Cup, which guarantees the team a spot as hosts of the B.C. AA men’s championship this March in Whitehorse.
The Huskies now have a 5-1 season record, splitting a two-game series against the Kelowna Sparta in December and sweeping a two-game series against the Bonnyville Sr. Pontiacs in October.
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org