Nunavut is not a team to be trifled with, as shown by their midget squad defeating powerhouse Alaska on Monday.
However, after dropping a two-goal lead, Yukon’s bantam hockey team held on for a 6-4 win over the Nunavut bantams in Arctic Winter Games action Monday at Takhini Arena.
It was the Yukon bantams’ first win after three games at the Arctics.
“We needed a win to give us a chance to get into the medals, depending on what happens with the rest of these games,” said Yukon co-head coach Jamie Cairns. “The boys played the way they can today and it showed. They used their speed – we attacked with speed – we wanted the puck a little more today. We got some bounces, played real well as a team.
“Everyone on the team has accepted their role. There’s different roles on the team – different cogs on the wheel that make the team work.
“The end result is a win and everyone is really happy right now.”
With his team tied 3-3 late in the second period, Yukon assistant captain Marcus McLeod took a shot from the point that went off the boards and out the other side of the net for captain Dylan McQuaig to jam in.
After a successful Nunavut penalty shot a minute into the third, Yukon’s Kole Comin dumped in the puck for game MVP Levi Johnson, who found Alex Hanson in front for the eventual game winner at 5-4.
“He’s been flyin’,” said Cairns of Johnson. “He made a few adjustments to his game, simplified things for himself … As one of the younger players on the team, it’s huge to have a kids like that being able to play those minutes. He’s a physical force, creates a lot of turnovers for us in the forecheck.”
Johnson also scored twice, as did Yukon left wing Malachi LaVallee.
“It feels good to win in front of the home crowd finally,” said LaVallee. “I wasn’t feeling the pressure, but we knew we had to come in here and win this game.”
The Yukon bantams went into their day off on Tuesday with a 1-2-0 record. They opened the Games with a 7-4 loss to N.W.T. on Sunday and lost 5-0 to Alaska Monday morning.
“It was closer than it sounded,” said Cairns of the Alaska game. “A few of their goals were off (our players’) shin-pads and stuff like that. They weren’t clean goals – not to take anything away from Alaska because they played hard. But that’s a team we feel we can skate with.”
Yukon will next be facing Northern Alberta on Wednesday and despite the outcome, if Nunavut stays winless, Yukon will earn a playoff spot for finishing in the top-four of the five teams in the Games.
“We have to win one to at least give us a chance … to play in the medal round,” said Cairns. “Our goal is to win against Alberta and it’s going to be a good game.”
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