Alternate captain Kyra McDonald celebrates the first goal of the 2019 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships for Team North during the team’s opening game against Team B.C. on May 7 at the Tahkini Arena in Whitehorse. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)

2019 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships start in Whitehorse

Held in the North for the first time, the tournament includes 18 teams representing nine regions

The 2019 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships are in Whitehorse from May 7 to 12, with games at the Canada Games Centre and the Tahkini Arena.

Eighteen teams, comprised of more than 400 Indigenous athletes from across the country, are competing in the championships, which are being held in the North for the first time.

Regions at the tournament include Alberta, Atlantic, British Columbia, Eastern Door and North, Manitoba, New Brunswick, North, Ontario and Saskatchewan.

Between the male and female teams, a total of 10 Yukon players and two Yukon coaches are participating with Team North.

Play kicked off early on May 7 with the first game between Team Atlantic and Team Eastern Door and North in the female division.

The first action for Team North was a female game against Team B.C. at 11 a.m., with B.C. emerging victorious 3-1.

Team North was back on the ice later that night following the opening ceremonies, losing 8-0 to Team Saskatchewan.

The male Team North start the tournament with a game against Team Ontario at 11 a.m. on May 8 and play again at 8:30 against Team Manitoba.

Round-robin play wraps up on May 8, and qualifying begins May 9.

Quarter-finals are scheduled for May 10 and semifinals May 11.

The tournament concludes with the medal round games on May 12.

Team B.C. bests Team North in first game for host team

Team North struck first, but Team B.C. rallied for a 3-1 win in the first game for the host female team.

Alternative captain Kyra McDonald scored just four seconds into a power play at 8:43 of the first period to give Team North a 1-0 lead. Assisting on the goal was Charlotte Siksik.

Despite peppering goaltender Megan Baliski with a steady stream of shots throughout the period, it took a buzzer-beater for Team B.C. to tie the score.

Zoe Leas scored, assisted by Samantha Wiley and Charlotte Stanwood, with just one second remaining in the first period for Team B.C.

Team B.C. managed to score two in the second period – Jade Ridgewell at 12:42 unassisted and Janelle Sadler at 2:51 from Paige Beauregard and Stanwood – and successfully held on for a 3-1 victory after a scoreless third.

Players of the game were Leas for Team B.C. and Baliski for Team North.

Baliski was particularly deserving, making several point-blank saves to keep Team North within striking distance.

Saskatchewan shuts out Team North in primetime matchup

Just hours after taking on Team B.C., Team North was back on the ice for its second game of the tournament taking on a fresh female Team Saskatchewan making its tournament debut.

After a delayed start to the opening ceremonies left both teams waiting close to an hour to play, Team North didn’t have a whole lot of answers for the speed and puck movement of Team Saskatchewan, losing 8-0.

Scoring for Saskatchewan in the first were Jessamy Sundby and Anna-Leise King, putting the score at 2-0 after 20 minutes of play.

Saskatchewan added four more in the second period, with a pair from Sundby to complete her hat trick and single tallies from Jasmine Lamotte and Jordyn Bear.

In the third, Story Navrot and Gwyneth Pritchard completed the scoring for Team Saskatchewan.

Although thoroughly defeated on the scoreboard, Team North showed stretches of solid team defence relying on teammates to help force turnovers as Saskatchewan moved the puck through the neutral zone.

Goaltender Kaiya Storey had a strong game for Team North – much stronger than the score would indicate – stopping a number of breakaways and odd-man rushes, and was duly named player of the game.

The player of the game for Team Saskatchewan was hat-trick scorer Sundby.

With both round-robin games in the rearview mirror, Team North must wait for the rest of the games to play out before finding out who the team plays next.

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

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Team North alternate captain Addy Lindell battles for a puck along the boards with Team Saskatchewan’s Jordyn Bear during a round-robin game on May 7 at the 2019 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships in Whitehorse. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)

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