The Bantam A Mustangs had a heartbreaking end to the B.C. Hockey Championships in Dawson Creek on Thursday.
Playing for the bronze medal, the Whitehorse minor hockey rep team dropped two one-goal leads en route to losing 5-4 to Smithers at the Tier 3 championship.
The loss gave the bantams fourth place for the best finish of the four Mustangs teams playing at various locations in British Columbia.
The Bantam Mustangs finished with a 2-3-1 record.
“We never got on track, in terms of how we were playing at some of the tournaments (during the season),” said Mustangs head coach Barry Blisner. “We had a tough start and came back to get to the final four.
“The boys fought hard to get to the medal round. The boys probably deserved a better fate but while we were here, we weren’t able to play quite as well. It was a good tournament for them though.”
The Mustangs took a 4-3 lead on goals from Kaine Comin, Levi Johnson, Caleb Marsh and Jack Blisner, who also had two assists. Forward Chance Goodman had two assists.
Smithers tied the game and took the lead with just 1:46 left in regulation.
“They were a couple good goals,” said Barry.
“There was nothing we could do about it.”
Making the loss harder to swallow was the fact Whitehorse defeated Smithers 5-3 on Tuesday. The Mustangs jumped out in front with three first-period goals Jarrett Peterson, Jack Blisner and Johnson. Johnson scored a second and Goodman contributed one to put their team up 5-1 by the end of the second period.
Whitehorse opened the championships with a 4-4 tie against Dawson Creek on Sunday after dropping a 3-0 lead with a goal from Gavin Lawrie and two from Johnson. Mustangs forward Riley Smoler scored to make it 4-1 by the end of the first.
The Mustangs lost 2-0 to Langley on Monday before winning 4-1 over Port Moody on Wednesday.
They then lost 8-1 loss to Quesnel later on Wednesday to land in the bronze medal game.
“Overall, it was a good year,” said Barry. “We won a couple tournaments and they got to some medal rounds. We would have liked to have done better, but (co-coach) Jordan (Borgford) and I, looking at the year, we thought it was a really successful year.”
Whitehorse midgets fall short on goals
The Midget A Mustangs needed a lopsided win on Wednesday. Their 3-2 victory over Victoria didn’t cut it.
Sitting in a three-way tie for second in their pool, the Mustangs needed to win by at least three goals to have a shot of making the playoffs. The 3-2 score was too narrow.
The Whitehorse team finished with 2-2-0 record to tie for sixth out of 10 teams at the Tier 3 championship in Alberni Valley on Vancouver Island.
“We had to win by more goals and the formula beat us,” said Mustangs head coach Kerry Pettitt.
The Midget Mustangs had a slow start to the championships, losing two games on Sunday.
They lost 4-2 to Whistler, with goals from Alexander Hanson and Jamie Tetlichi, and 5-2 to Quesnel, with goals from Matthew McCarthy and Braedan Paun-Burnett.
“I think we under-performed the first two games,” said Pettitt. “It’s hard. I know I keep saying it, most Mustangs coaches (say it): no offence to the rec league but you can’t play this kind of hockey (in Whitehorse).
“This was our 14th game at this level, where most other teams had practised and developed with at least 30 games or more under their belt.
“Having said that, we did pretty well.”
Playing contact hockey is part of it, but there’s also “a different style of play,” said Pettitt. “The way you defend, the way you attack is slightly different … The intensity of the game is way different.”
The Mustangs bounced back from the losses with a 4-1 win over Castlegar on Monday. Captain Mike Arnold had two goals while Liam Webster and Tetlichi also scored.
McCarthy had two goals and Arnold had one in the game against Victoria.
“Goaltending was huge for us,” said Pettitt. “Both goalies (Nigel Sinclair-Eckert and Youge Blackburn) did very well and did their jobs and allowed us to compete.”
Peewees lose key player in Creston
Peewee A Mustangs winger Joe Stokes is one tough kid. The Whitehorse forward played two periods on a broken ankle on Sunday.
The leading points-getter for the Peewee A Mustangs broke his ankle in the first period of their first game, but played the second and third anyway. He had surgery to have a pin put in the next day.
“It was a tough loss. He is one of our leaders, a second-year guy, our points leader,” said Mustangs co-head coach Martin Lawrie. “He left a hole that couldn’t be filled, for sure.”
Things didn’t get any better for the Peewee Mustangs. The Whitehorse squad went 0-5-0 to tie Cranbrook for 10th out of 11 teams in the Tier 3 championships in Creston.
The Mustangs lost 7-2 to Burnaby Winter Club Sunday, 6-5 Castlegar Monday, 11-1 to Dawson Creek and 2-1 to Creston on Tuesday, and 5-2 to Quesnel on Wednesday.
“It’s tough. Our record doesn’t indicate where our club ranks within the teams that we played,” said Lawrie. “We beat Castlegar in the past and could have won that hockey game. In the Burnaby game … we had five posts a couple minutes after it was 3-2, which could have changed the complexion of that game.
“We just weren’t getting breaks and it caught up to us.”
In the loss to Castlegar, Mustangs dropped a 2-0, 4-3 and a 5-4 lead in the game. Mustangs’ Bryce Anderson had a hat trick and Chance Goodman scored two goals.
“They got a bit of a lucky goal to go ahead late in the game and we just couldn’t score again,” said Lawrie. “We had a number of chances, even before we pulled the goalie, but we just couldn’t bury the puck.”
In the tight 2-1 loss to Creston, Whitehorse racked up 39 shots to 22, but Creston goalie Junior Porter was a wall between the pipes.
“Junior Porter is the top goalie here by far,” said Lawrie. “He’s almost their entire team.”
Niall Lawrie got Whitehorse’s goal in the Creston game.
Midget Bs hampered by penalties
The Midget B Mustangs got to know the inside of the penalty box pretty well while playing in the Tier 4 championships in Lillooet, Okanagan.
The Midget Bs accumulated over 100 penalty minutes over three winless games. As a result, the Whitehorse squad went 0-3-0 and tied Chetwynd for seventh out of eight teams.
“We ran into an exceeding large amount of penalties,” said Mustangs head coach John Grant. “We competed not bad, but we’d have penalty trouble and they pop in two or three, and then we’d be alright for a while.
“It’s pretty disappointing.”
The Mustangs lost 10-2 to Burns Lake on Sunday with goals from Jordan King and Tyson Hope.
They then fell 12-1 to the hosting Lillooet team on Monday with a third-period goal from Whitehorse’s Karter Kazakoff, assisted by Kaden Kormendy.
Whitehorse then took a 12-3 loss to Alberni Valley on Tuesday. Scoring for the Mustangs was Kazakoff with two and Bohdi Elias with one goal and one assist. Dustyn VanBibber had an assist and Tyson Hope had two.
“With an 18-person roster, we ended up with 13 on the bench at the end of the game,” said Grant. “It just doesn’t work when you’re down by that many players.
“Guys were hurt. One got tossed. That kind of stuff.”
The Peewee A Mustangs went 3-2-1 to snag fourth at the Tier 3 tournament in Quesnel for Whitehorse’s best finish last year.
The last time Whitehorse won a medal was in 2011 when the Midget A Mustangs won bronze in the Tier 3 championship in Cranbrook.
Final playoff results for this year were not available by press time.
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