Members of Team Manitoba celebrate after taking the National Aboriginal Hockey Championship’s gold medal game lead by two in Whitehorse on May 12. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

2019 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships conclude in Whitehorse

Held in the North for the first time, the tournament’s medal round was not without controversy

The 2019 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships, held for the first time in Whitehorse, wrapped up on May 12 with the medal round games at Tahkini Arena.

In the female division, Team Saskatchewan beat Team Manitoba 5-1 to win gold and Team Ontario beat Team B.C. 2-0 to win bronze.

Things were a bit more complicated in the male division after semifinal-winners Team Alberta were removed from the tournament because the team’s travel plans called for a departure from Whitehorse before the final even started.

As a result Team B.C. won the bronze medal after losing to Team Manitoba 5-3 in the bronze medal game, and Team Manitoba won gold by defeating Team Saskatchwan 6-1 in the final.

Following the final game of the championships, awards were given out to a number of standout players.

Most Valuable Player awards went to Manitoba’s Kennesha Miswaggon and Saskatchewan’s Kishaun Gervais.

Top forwards in the tournament were Team North’s Kyra McDonald and Team Manitoba’s Conner Roulette.

Top defencemen in the tournament were Saskatchewan’s Anna-Leise King and Manitoba’s Bryden Sinclair.

Top goalies in the tournament were Team Eastern Door and North’s Amy-Lea Duchesne-Petiquay and Team North’s Liam Tereposky.

Most Sportsmanlike Team were female Team North and male Team Eastern Door and North.

Most Sportsmanlike Players were Team Saskatchewan’s Scout Anderson and Team B.C.’s Ross Roloson.

Saskatchewan beats Manitoba in female gold medal game

The female gold medal game at the 2019 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships was a hard fought contest between Team Saskatchewan and Team Manitoba, with Manitoba earning a 5-1 win after regulation.

Things started off cautiously, with both teams trying to feel out the opposition early in the first period before Saskatchewan broke the deadlock at 12:47 of the first on a goal from Sawyer Norman assisted by Anica Gauthier.

Shortly after, Team Manitoba took the first of its 15 penalties in the game at 10:38 when Emily Daniels was given a minor for hooking.

Saskatchewan didn’t score on that power play — or the short five-on-three after Haley Johnson was called for slashing at 8:01 — but did do an excellent job of creating traffic in front and generating hard, low shots from the point in hopes of a deflection or rebound.

To its credit, Team Manitoba did an excellent job of adjusting and looked much more comfortable in the second half of that extended short-handed spell.

Manitoba got a crack at a power play not long after, when Saskatchewan’s McKenzie Mayo took a slashing penalty at 5:45, and put the pressure on Saskatchewan for the first half of the penalty.

After killing off the opportunity, Saskatchewan was back on the power play at 3:47 when Manitoba’s Kaila Powell took a holding penalty. Over the next two minutes, both teams had chances to score, including a solid short-handed opportunity for Manitoba.

Manitoba picked up one last penalty in the first at 1:21 when Aliya Baker was called for slashing. That one nearly proved costly, as Saskatchewan’s Anna-Leise King made a last-second rush up ice and beat the defence wide for one final chance.

After the intermission, the game restarted with a back-and-forth, end-to-end pace unseen to that point in the contest due to the heavy traffic in the penalty box.

That flow was predictably interrupted at 16:15 when Saskatchewan’s Gauthier took a tripping penalty, putting Manitoba on the power play.

Although unable to solve goaltender Scout Anderson, Manitoba was able to maintain offensive pressure — no doubt tiring out the penalty killers at the very least.

Next to the penalty box was Manitoba’s Makenzie McCallum who took a body checking penalty at 13:59. No harm, no foul though, as the saying goes, and Manitoba did an excellent job of killing the penalty, particularly by Katie Bassett who managed to keep the puck pinned behind the Saskatchewan net for what felt like an eternity but was closer to 30 seconds.

Back to even strength, the teams again reverted to an exciting, evenly-matched hockey game of end-to-end rushes.

Saskatchewan’s Kyla Bear picked up a minor penalty at 10:14 for unsportsmanlike conduct, but Manitoba bailed out the opposition with a Rachel O’Toole cross-checking penalty at 8:39 after Saskatchewan’s Jordyn Bear stayed strong behind the Manitoba net.

Saskatchewan doubled its lead at 7:45 when Jordyn fed a seeing-eye pass through a sea of legs and sticks to the waiting Kailey Ledoux who buried the puck from near the top of the circle.

Manitoba picked up a boarding penalty courtesy of Kennesha Miswaggon at 7:08, and Kaila Powell soon joined Miswaggon after picking up a holding penalty while forechecking on the penalty kill.

As is so often the case, the bad penalties are the most costly and Saskatchewan wasted little time added another power play goal as King scored at 6:17 on a point shot assisted by Mckenzie Mayo.

It was back to the box for Miswaggon at 6:01 when she picked up a 10 minute misconduct for unsportsmanlike conduct, which was somewhat mitigated by Saskatchewan’s Jordyn picking up a minor for interference.

In case the intensity of the game was in any doubt, Kyla Bear and Kaila Powell both received offsetting minor penalties at 1:56 of the second for roughing and holding respectively.

After 40 minutes of action, it was 3-0 for Saskatchewan.

The game followed a similar script in the third period, with the teams alternating penalties in the first five minutes.

After Manitoba’s Breanna McLennan was called for checking at 11:30, Saskatchewan struck again on the power play at 10:17 when Kailey Ledoux scored with assists to Jordyn and King.

Manitoba scored its first goal of the game at 8:44 when Carrigan Umpherville scored from the hash marks off a feed from McCallum.

A Manitoba penalty to Keria Christensen for tripping at 8:25, however, seemed to take away any momentum the goal might have caused.

Saskatchewan had a rare miscue just minutes later though, forcing Mayo to take a tripping penalty after a bad line change nearly left a Manitoba player in alone.

After failing to capitalize on the power play, Manitoba took two more penalties — McCallum for interference at 3:53 and Miswaggon at 3:34 for interference — that effectively snuffed out any hope of a last-second comeback.

Saskatchewan put a final exclamation point on the win with a powerplay goal at 1:54 from Ledoux assisted by Jordyn.

Final score was 5-1 for Team Saskatchewan in a game that showed flashes of brilliance from both sides but was plagued by endless penalties.

Players of the game were Ledoux for Team Saskatchewan and Miswaggon for Team Manitoba.

Manitoba goes from third to first with victory over Saskatchewan in male gold medal game

After finding out midway through its bronze medal win the winner would advance to face Team Saskatchewan in the male final of the 2019 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships, Team Manitoba showed no exhaustion or fatigue at all in a thoroughly dominant 6-1 win to hoist the Turtle Island Cup.

Things got underway 30 minutes late, a bid to give Manitoba just a bit more time to recover from the team’s earlier bronze medal win against B.C., but it was Saskatchewan that came out looking flat-footed and tired.

Riley Girod from Saskatchewan took a penalty at 17:37 for slashing, giving Manitoba the early power play and an early 1-0 lead thanks to a goal from Conner Roulette assisted by Jaeger Lapointe and Kieran Cooke.

A pair of offsetting penalties at 14:04 — Saskatchewan’s Aaron Greyeyes for diving and Manitoba’s Cole Mentuck for tripping — were followed up almost immediate by a second Manitoba goal at 13:49 when Roulette tallied his second with an assist to Matthew McLeod.

Saskatchewan had its first power play at 12:15 when Manitoba alternate captain Bryden Sinclair got caught cross-checking an opponent well behind the play.

Despite extensive pressure, Manitoba managed to hold on.

Saskatchewan’s Ethan Ironside picked up a double-minor for head contact at 9:06, and with just seconds remaining in the power play gave up a goal to Manitoba when Colby Bear took a Roulette pass and fed it cross ice through sticks to Jaden Pashe who found the back of the net.

Down 3-0, a 10 minute misconduct to Saskatchewan’s Kishaun Gervais at 1:06 was the manifestation of brewing frustration.

Things in the second period started with a double-minor to Saskatchewan’s Sebastian Eger for head contact at 18:54, followed by a minor penalty to Manitoba’s Kobe Campbell for holding at 18:12.

After a fleeting glimpse at five-on-five hockey, Manitoba was back on the penalty kill when Sequoia Swan got called for interference at 14:05.

Hunter Mayo made the most of his chance at 12:31, scoring for Saskatchewan with help from Boston Bird and Ethan Bear after the puck worked its way from the sidewall to the slot for Mayo to pounce.

Saskatchewan was lucky to just pick up another minor at 8:42 — Caden Joanis for slashing — after an incident well after the whistle.

Shortly after the penalty expired and before Joanis could rejoin the play, Manitoba appeared to score at 6:35 but after conferring amongst themselves, the officials waived the goal off.

Not to be denied, Pashe added another goal for Manitoba at 4:40 with assists to Matthew Mason-Vandel and Mentuck.

Keeping with the theme of the day, the two teams didn’t go into the intermission at even strength. Manitoba’s Sinclair received a two minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty at 0:54 of the second.

After 40 minutes, the score was 4-1 in favour of Manitoba.

The third period started with both teams exchanging chances and periods of pressure in the opening minutes, before Roulette completed his hat trick at 14:39 with an impressive play to bat the McLeod shot out of mid-air. Also assisting on the goal was Sinclair.

Things settled down over the next 10 minutes, with extended periods of play without any whistles and strong goaltending at both ends.

After a time out at 7:25, Saskatchewan seems to lose some composure.

Ironside picked up a double minor for spearing at 5:52, making an already difficult comeback nearly impossible.

At 4:48, Kishaun Gervais and Pashe had offsetting minors and a final Saskatchewan penalty to Eger at 2:27 let to the final Manitoba goal — a long rebound Sinclair made no mistake on with assists going to Logan Clarke and Kobe Campbell.

Final score was 6-1 for Manitoba.

Players of the game were Gervais for Team Saskatchewan and Roulette for Team Manitoba.

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at john.hopkinshill@yukon-news.com

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