The Peewee Mustangs and the Atom Mustangs were in tough this past weekend.
With only a few hours of ice-time under their belts, the two Tier 3 Whitehorse rec teams took on Tier 2 squads at the 12th annual Seafair International Ice Breaker Rep Tournament.
Both came away winless but picked up experience that will serve them well over the season, said the teams’ head coaches.
“When you pick a new team every year you’re always trying to build on systems and develop their skills and you only have so much time before you get to this first tournament,” said Peewee Mustangs head coach Elgin Schwantz. “That’s not an excuse, it’s reality.
“What I’ve seen by the time we finished this weekend is a lot of improvement in all areas, in all kids, so that’s great – even though we lost.”
“With an early tournament like this, it’s hard for our kids who haven’t really touched the ice,” said Atom Mustangs head coach Trevor Matthews. “Our atom kids coming out here have had one game and four practices. They are playing teams who it’s their third tournament, so they’ve had a chance to practise on structure and all that, and our kids haven’t. To come out here and keep the games close with the limited ice-time we’ve had is phenomenal for these kids.
“From Game 1 to Game 4, the kids improved on man-to-man coverage. Especially coming from novice … where you have groups of five kids following the puck.”
The Peewee Mustangs dropped one-goal leads in their last two games, falling 3-1 to the Nanaimo Clippers and 2-1 to the Seattle T-Birds from Washington.
They also lost 2-0 to Surrey’s Semiahmoo to open the tournament, 7-2 to the Campbell River Tyees and 6-1 to the Langley Eagles.
“The last two games were exactly the same: we were winning at the beginning and it seemed as the game went on out kids had a mental lapse of their positioning and their second gear started to fade,” said Schwantz, an assistant coach who took over as head coach for Kirk Gale, who couldn’t make the trip.
Peewee Mustangs’ Saul Gale had two goals, Eric Potvin a goal and an assist and Liam Hudson had two assists at the tournament. Kyle Bierlmeier and Marco Harwood also scored for the Mustangs in the road trip.
“In most of the games we did play good, but we could have been better,” said Mustangs defenceman Kyle Schwantz.
“We could have won at least one of those games. We were winning two of them and then we lost momentum and lost the game.”
“Some are more angry than others,” said Mustangs winger Wyatt Sheardown-Waugh. “There’s one side of the team who take it too rough on themselves, say it’s all their fault. And then there are some who are just laid back and are just like, ‘whatever,’ and accept the loss. Some of us find it easier to go from one game to the next game.”
The Atom Mustangs also took five straight losses – a couple with rather lopsided scores – but they weren’t shut out in any of them.
The Atoms lost 5-2 to the Juan de Fuca Grizzlies, 10-2 to the hosting Seafair Islanders and 16-1 to the North Shore Winter Club in the round robin. They then improved to 9-2 against the Winter Club in the playoffs before a 6-3 loss against the Grizzlies in a rematch to finish the tournament.
“A couple of (teammates) are pretty disappointed, but I think it’s the beginning of the year,” said Mustangs defenceman Nolan Matthews. “With the games we played, I think by the end of the year we’ll be great.
“For a lot of them this is the first tournament outside the territory, so a lot of them are really happy to be here.
“We really worked hard as a team. Not one kid really stood out, we all helped each other out.”
Leading the way for the Atoms were Ty Beacon and Seth Sheardown-Waugh, each with two goals and an assist. Nolan had a goal and two assists and Jonathan Timmons and Joshua Schenk also scored.
The icebreaker tourney was a different story for the Bantam Mustangs, who went undefeated in five games to win gold in Tier 2.
Derek Klassen, the new head coach for the Whitehorse Minor Hockey Association and the Mustangs program, was pleased by what he saw from all three Whitehorse teams.
“I thought it was a great weekend overall for all three teams,” said Klassen. “What matters in hockey is where you are in March, not where you’re at in October. I thought all the teams competed hard, some better than others as far as wins and losses are concerned. All the kids got a different taste of competition than they’re used to, which is really positive for Whitehorse minor hockey.
“I couldn’t be happier with how the weekend went.”
Contact Tom Patrick at