The Atom Junior Mustangs went to Leduc, Alberta, and returned a different team. A stronger team.
The Whitehorse rep team won the B Pool at the Adam Myers Memorial Tournament over the weekend.
The Mustangs showed improvement in every game, said acting head coach Steve Smith.
“I think it was a great success,” said Smith. “Even during the tournament you could see the kids were developing. They would see the fruits of their labours. They would make a play, or a defenceman would hold a line, and they were realizing that they can do this.
“They learned something out of every one of those games and it really all came together in that final game.”
In what was the team’s first tournament of the season, the Mustangs went 1-2 in the round-robin, tying for third. With a penalty minutes count breaking the tie, Whitehorse was put in the B Pool final where they squashed Sylvan Lake 7-2.
The team had never looked so good, said Smith.
“That final game was probably the best game I’ve ever seen the kids play this year,” said Smith. “They played with intensity, but most of all, the were disciplined and unselfish. Absolutely everyone contributed.
“We had defencemen who held the line. We had forwards who won battles along the boards. We had lots of passing and pressure in the other team’s end. And key stops from goalies when we needed it.”
Scoring for the Mustangs were forwards Eric Potvin, Keegan Bevilacqua and defenceman Aimery Barrault. Kyle Bierlmeier and Kyron Crosby each had two goals in the game.
Like a pair of bookends, the Mustangs also opened the tournament with a 3-1 win over Sylvan Lake on Friday. Erroll Ekholm, Kyle Schwantz and Barrault each scored while Potvin was given the Heart and Hustle Award, an award given to a player on each team following every round-robin game.
“He got our first two shots on net, passed the puck for our third shot on net,” said Smith. “That just set the stage for his level of play the whole game.”
The Mustangs hit some tough competition on Saturday, playing the two teams that met in the tournament final.
Whitehorse fell 6-0 to Stettler, who lost in the final, and 5-1 to the Beaumont Braves, who went on to win the tournament.
Against Stettler, defenceman Marco Harwood picked up the Heart and Hustle Award.
“He played solid on defence for us that game,” said Smith.
In the Beaumont game, Bierlmeier scored and goalie Aaron Chen was given the Heart and Hustle Award.
“He probably played the best game I’ve seen him play,” said Smith of Chen.
“We had really good goaltending,” he added. “We split goalies for each game, so, essentially, they get half a game each. Dawson Smith, our other goalie, went two games without being scored on.”
While in Leduc, the Mustangs took a trip to Edmonton to watch a Western Hockey League game between the Edmonton Oil Kings and the Prince Albert Raiders from Saskatchewan.
As a special treat, the Mustangs were on the ice as the honour guard during the singing of the anthem.
“They definitely held their heads high coming out of that tournament,” said Smith. “It was a great success.”
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