Yukon’s Northern Avalanche female midget hockey team was as devastating on the ice as its namesake is on a mountainside last weekend.
Competing at the first annual Wickenheiser Hockey Festival tournament in Burnaby, BC, the Avalanche out-scored the competition 23-1 over five games to win gold in their first tournament of the season.
“We came into the tournament with a couple of goals,” wrote head coach Louis Bouchard in an e-mail to the News. “First to give tournament experience to some of our younger players. Our second objective was to see if the girls could perform at that level for five games in three days. And thirdly we had some defensive and offensive tactics that we wanted to put to the test.
“It was a success on all fronts. As far as tournaments go it was amazing for all present. The girls not only performed well at that level but were getting better game after game. And with a record of five wins and zero losses, with 23 goals for and one against, it couldn’t have worked out better.”
The Avalanche sealed the deal with a 4-0 win over the Comox Valley, BC, in the finals. Scoring for the Avalanche were Dana Van Vliet, Tamara Greek – each with an assist in the game as well – Linsey Eby and Ashtyn Sandulak. Adrianne Dewhurst got two assists.
The Yukon squad advanced to the finals with a 6-1 win over the Tri Cities Predators from Washington State, with pairs of goals from Eby and Greek, plus others from Britney Brown and Van Vliet.
While Avalanche goalie Jocelyn Wynnyk, who was in net for four games, finished on top of the goalie leaders board with a zero goals against average, and Greek finished fourth for goals in the tournament with seven, Bouchard points to the team effort as their reason for the win.
“All 18 players contributed to the team’s success and we are proud of the way they represented the Yukon,” wrote Bouchard. “With three peewee players, six bantam players, and seven first-year midget players, we were apprehensive going into our first tournament, but the girls came through and played with heart.”
The Avalanche, which is also the Yukon’s girls’ team for next February’s Canada Winter Games in Halifax, surprisingly has more players from outside Whitehorse than from within, with 10 of its 18 players hailing from Yukon communities other than the capital. (This significantly contrasts with the Yukon’s boys’ team going to the Winter Games, which has only one player from outside of Whitehorse.)
More than just a tournament, the Avalanche players were treated to some off-ice clinics from former Montreal Canadien Stanley Cup winner and former Vancouver Canucks coach Ryan Walter and two-time Canadian Olympic gold medal winner Carla McLeod. They also got to meet Mason Raymond of the Vancouver Canucks, retired NHLer Trevor Linden and, of course, Team Canada captain Hayley Wickenheiser.
“After the final game Hayley Wickenheiser thanked and congratulated both teams on the ice and walked off,” wrote Bouchard. “When we asked to get a picture with the second place team she liked the gesture so much that she came back on the ice to join.”
To further sharpen the team for February’s Games, the Avalanche will be attending a training camp in Haines Junction next month before heading to a tournament in Langley, BC, over the Christmas break.
“Last month we had a bunch of highly motivated female hockey players this week we have a hockey team,” wrote Bouchard.
Avalanche team roster
Adrianne Dewhurst – LW (Teslin)
Ashtyn Sandulak – RW (Whitehorse)
Brittney Brown – RW (Haines Junction)
Christina McIntyre – RW (Dawson)
Chyanne Spenner – D (Whitehorse)
Dana vanVliet – RW (Haines Junction)
Hannah Turner – D (Whitehorse)
Jocelyn Wynnyk – G (Marsh Lake)
Linsey Eby – C (Whitehorse)
Lynsey Keaton – D (Whitehorse)
Madison Logan – C (Whitehorse)
Maya Oakley – G (Haines Junction)
Natalja Blanchard – RW (Dawson)
Sadie Whitelaw – LW (Whitehorse)
Savannah vanVliet – D (Haines Junction)
Sierra Oakley – LW (Haines Junction)
Tamara Greek – D (Whitehorse)
Tshayla Nothstein – C (Faro)
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