A possible first win slips past the Yukon’s sticks

He’s barely old enough to drive a car, but 16-year-old Ian Perrier is aiming the slings and arrows of his team’s fortunes squarely at…

He’s barely old enough to drive a car, but 16-year-old Ian Perrier is aiming the slings and arrows of his team’s fortunes squarely at himself.

On Saturday, the talented Yukon goalie’s determined effort against Quebec — his first game — caught the eyes of several NHL scouts in the stands at the Takhini Arena.

The team lost 9-1, but Perrier made dozens of saves and his name was on everybody’s lips Sunday as the great white hope that could lead the Yukon men to their first ever hockey win at the Canada Winter Games.

But despite occasional successes against Nova Scotia, the Yukon team came up short.

It took a 10-4 loss — its second in as many games.

Perrier was sullen and lifeless after Sunday’s match, and blamed himself for the loss.

“I didn’t play well, and we got into penalty trouble and they got lucky bounces — that’s what killed us,” said Perrier.

“All in all, it was my fault: 46 shots and 10 goals against doesn’t usually mean that I’m playing too well. If I would have played a little better today we would have won.”

Perhaps Perrier should chat with Clint McConnachie before he succumbs to his funk.

McConnachie is a talent scout with the Toronto Maple Leafs who was in the stands on Saturday and Sunday watching the Yukon play against Quebec and Nova Scotia.

He’s at the Games to watch the men’s hockey tournament and take note of players strong enough to be selected for the upcoming 2008 NHL draft.

The Yukon team is smaller and a bit less prepared compared with some of the provincial teams in the tournament, but he’s still impressed.

“They have a lot of heart, they’re playing hard, they compete — that’s the one thing that’s impressed me about this team,” said McConnachie after the second period on Sunday.

“The goaltender is playing fairly well. I saw him play Quebec yesterday and today he’s keeping his team in it,” he said.

Had you ignored the scoreboard on Sunday it wasn’t only Perrier that impressed on the Yukon team.

It looked to be dominating Nova Scotia at several moments, when momentum shifted in its favour.

When the team scored or Perrier made a big stop, the Yukon had electric energy that saw Nova Scotia players struggle to keep up.

In the second period, 16-year-old Andrew Pettitt took a pass from 16-year-old William McDougal and brought the team within two goals of Nova Scotia.

When McDougal scored three minutes later, the crowd roared as if the clock had just struck 12 on New Year’s Eve.

But things went downhill from there.

Penalties and a sometimes-sloppy Yukon defense saw Nova Scotia score like clockwork whenever it had a powerplay — which was often.

The Yukon’s fourth goal was its only one in the third period, scored by 16-year-old Fraser Love.

Head coach Mike Young knows the biggest barrier for his team is confidence, not a lack of ability.

“We had two solid periods,” said Young. “We were going toe to toe with those guys. We would have loved to have won that game.

“We need to get a win. Yukon’s never got a win in this tournament. It’s crucial to get that first win. The sooner we can do it the better, because then we can worry about the next win after that.”

Playing against teams like Quebec and Nova Scotia and giving them a fight is keeping morale high, said Young.

He blamed Sunday’s loss on penalties and declared himself happier with the game than with Saturday’s 9-1 loss to Quebec.

But getting Perrier back into the right headspace is now a priority, he said.

Another player feeling Sunday’s game was a missed opportunity was McDougal.

“We knew we could have had Nova Scotia,” he said. “We’re a bit upset, but it’s good to know we can compete with these teams.

 “The home crowd support is unreal. I’ve never heard this building be so loud ever in my whole life. I think all the guys on the bench use that as motivation,” said McDougal.

 “We just want a victory. If we come off with a win — our goal now is to go for ninth — if we do that, that’ll be history.”

The 1,800-strong crowd at the arena on Sunday wasn’t only supporting the home team.

A contingent of more than 100 Nova Scotians sat in one section waving their flags, ringing bells and generally having a great time.

Standing at the top of the stands was Bill Robar, a parent of one of the players from the Nova Scotia team.

He and his fellow Nova Scotians are enjoying their weeklong stay in Whitehorse, he said.

“Oh, it’s awesome. Even at minus 40, it’s awesome,” said Robar, who is from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

 “We’re just hoping they play solid,” he said of his son’s team. “In these shorter tournaments, once you get on a roll you never know what’s going to happen.”

The next game for the Yukon men’s hockey will probably be Tuesday, depending on how other games turn out.

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