When the Atom Mustangs reached the final to meet the Whistler Winter Hawks — the team that beat them in the final last year — they weren’t distressed. Quite the opposite. They welcomed the opportunity for retribution.
“It was sort of sweet to meet them in the final,” said Mustangs head coach Derek Johnstone. “All the kids knew that too.”
The Mustangs dealt some payback, downing Whistler to win gold at the Eagles Family Day Atom Tournament in Squamish, B.C., on Feb. 13.
The Yukon development team beat Whistler 8-2 after storming out to a 4-0 lead in the first period.
“We were there last year and the core of the group have seen what it takes to win, and they were ready,” said Johnstone. “We preached fast starts and hard work all year and that’s what happened in the first 10 minutes. They (Whistler) had no chance after about four minutes of play there.”
Gavin Mckenna notched a four-point game with a hat trick; Jase Johnstone had a goal and two assists; while other goals came from Conner Labar, Landon Cowper, Zander Underhill and Noah Kinney.
The Mustangs went undefeated in six games at the 16-team Tier 3 tourney, but they weren’t all so lopsided.
The Yukon team opened with back-to-back shootout wins in the round robin.
First they topped the Langley Eagles 4-3 — Chayce Tuton sniped the game-winner and goalie Taylor Bierlmeier stop all three Langley shooters. Then they claimed victory over the Mission Stars with a 5-4 win. Both Cowper and Mckenna scored in the shootout while Bierlmeier kept the net clean again.
“When you go to a tournament you’re going to encounter some kind of adversity and it depends on how you get through that,” said Derek Johnstone. “If we came out with one loss in the first two, it might have been totally different. We just gained momentum and from that moment on, after the shootout, we were really untouchable.”
The Mustangs ran roughshod over Cowichan Valley with nine different goal scorers. Kinney posted his first tournament goal of the season and got the game star award.
Yukon then produced a 3-0 win over South Delta in the quarterfinal with big saves from Bierlmeier and goals from Holmes and Mckenna with two.
The semifinal wasn’t any closer as the Mustangs sent the Squamish Eagles packing with a 9-3 win.
“I’m extremely pleased with them,” said Derek Johnstone. “They got better and better as the tournament went on, so it was really rewarding for them.”
Squamish marked the second road trip of the season for the Atom Mustangs. They went 2-2 at a Tier 2 tourney in Salmon Arm, B.C. in December.
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org