Yukon’s Bantam Mustangs came within a minute and a half of making history a second year in a row on Wednesday.
Playing in the Tier 3 bantam final of the B.C. Hockey Championships in Smithers, the defending champs watched a one-goal lead slip away with 1:31 left in regulation before falling in overtime.
“The boys are upset, for sure. They knew it was there within their grasp,” said Mustangs head coach Kirk Gale. “It was a game of inches and we came up a little short …
“We’re not very happy with a silver medal right now, but we’ll take it.”
The Vanderhoof Bears took gold with a 3-2 win over over the Yukon rep team.
Making the loss all the more bitter for the Yukon squad, the Mustangs went into the third with a somewhat comfy 2-0 lead.
“We came out a little flat in the first period. We were outshot 20-5, so (goalie Dawson Smith) kept us in the game. I felt we could have been down a couple goals, but luckily we got up by one,” said Gale.
“We picked it up a little bit in the second, but we couldn’t seem to get a few things together. But still, we were up 2-0 after the second period.
“In the third period they got a bit of a lucky goal. It was one of those ones we were risking a few things a little too much and they were bound to get one at some point.”
Mustangs defenceman Oscar Burgess got the ball rolling on a backhanded goal midway through the first, assisted by Josh Austin and Brett Walchuk.
Forward Bryce Anderson delivered the second with 5:46 left in the second, snapping a quick one by the Bears keeper.
Following the Bears’ tying goal – scored with their net emptied for the extra attacker – the teams went into overtime with shots on net at 41-27 in favour of Vanderhoof.
After the Bears survived a Mustangs power play, Slade Desharnais scored the winner on a rebound at the side of the net with 2:09 left in the 10-minute overtime.
“We outplayed them in overtime; we were all over them, I thought,” said Gale. “They just got a lucky bounce towards the end, bounced on a guy’s stick and hit Dawson’s pad and went in.
“But that’s how things go. Hopefully these players learn from it. Playing with the lead is a tough animal. You can’t afford to make too many mistakes because they’ll capitalize. We didn’t give them a whole bunch, but they got enough and that was the whole difference.”
Four out of the Mustangs’ five games at the championships ended in one-goal differences.
The Mustangs opened with a 4-3 loss to Vancouver’s Arbutus Club on Sunday.
They then topped the gold-winning Vanderhoof team 4-3 on Monday. “So we knew they were going to be a good team, knew we were going to have our backs against the wall,” said Gale.
Anderson scored the last two goals of the game, assisted by Walchuk on the game-winner.
Yukon then took a 6-5 win over South Okanagan – a team they had lost to twice this season in tournament play – on Tuesday. Burgess had two goals, including the game-winner.
The Mustangs then disappointed hometown fans with a 7-4 win over Smithers in Wednesday’s semifinal. Anderson had a goal and three assists and Burgess a hat trick. Walchuk had a goal and Isaac Williamson did too.
Following the medal ceremony on Wednesday, Mustangs forward Josh Austin was given the Fair Play Award.
“It goes to the player who plays fair, plays hard, and plays the game the right way, and Josh Austin certainly deserves that,” said Gale. “That was a great call by the organizing committee.”
(The Yukon Bantam Mustangs – then the Whitehorse Bantam Mustangs before a name change – won the territory’s first-ever gold at the B.C. championships last year.)
Two other Yukon Mustang teams have been competing in Tier 3 tournaments at the B.C. championships this week.
The Peewee Mustangs outscored the competition 31-9 to win their first four games in West Vancouver and advance to the semifinal where they will face Dawson Creek. Results were not available at press time.
The Midget Mustangs went 2-2 in round robin play in Lower Mainland Sunshine Coast, but unfortunately that wasn’t enough to reach the playoffs.
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