Whitehorse’s atom Mustangs may have begun the Dawson Creek Atom Development Tournament with three losses over the weekend, but a strong goals-for-and-against record was enough to launch them into a semifinal.
“We were the only team to score against Dawson Creek in the round-robin,” said head coach Mike L’Henaff, “and those four goals got us into the semifinals.”
The Mustangs opened the tournament losing 11-4 to the eventual tournament winning Dawson Creek Canucks, a Tier 1 team, not Tier 3 like the Mustangs.
The Whitehorse crew took awhile to come to life, but eventually scored four goals in the third period, coming from Payton Fobe, Bryce Anderson, Jake Wawia and Cruz Goodman.
“That third period we played really, really well,” said L’Henaff. “Their coaches were wondering where that team was for the other two periods. Their coaches complimented our guys on how they played in the third period.”
The Whitehorse squad then took similar losses in their following two games, losing 7-4 against the Prince George Canadiens (with two goals from Lukas Jirousek, who also had two assists, and two from Johnny Elias) and then 8-4 against the Grande Prairie Atoms (with goals from Joe Stokes, Anderson, and two from Niall Lawrie).
“I’m seeing a pattern here,” said L’Henaff. “We have to score more than four goals.”
However, the Mustangs picked up a win on Sunday morning going 5-2 over the Prince George Canucks, finally breaking the four-goal trend. Scoring for the Mustangs were Stokes, Anderson, Jirousek, Wawia and Dylan Cozens.
In the semifinal the Mustangs were back at their four-goal habit, losing 7-4 against the Prince George Canucks to take fourth, with goals from Anderson, Jirousek, Goodman and Cozens.
“The kids had a good time and learned a lot,” said L’Henaff. “A lot of our kids had never been exposed to that level, that intensity.
“Our goaltending, even though we didn’t come out on top, was fantastic all weekend, with Campbell Burdenie and Ethan Vanderkley.”
Squeezing as much as they could out of the road trip, the Mustangs also picked up a pair of exhibition games on the way to Dawson Creek. Starting with a game against the Fort Nelson Fury, the Mustangs won 9-2 on Wednesday.
“It was a good challenge for the kids, especially after the 10-hour drive,” said L’Henaff. “The kids were tired, but we played alright to win the game. They had a peewee-aged goalie, so our guys had to legitimately score goals.”
The Mustangs then defeated the Fort St. John Flyers 13-2 the following day. (The Flyers team was made up of first-year atom players, compared to the Mustangs who were half-and-half.)
“In those games it was a team effort; no one really stood out for us,” said L’Henaff.
“We had seven games in five days, so it was a valuable trip for our kids.”
“We’d like to thank all our sponsors, for the money they’ve given to allow us to provide our kids with opportunities,” he added.
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