The Canada Winter Games boys’ hockey team – Team Yukon – pulled off a win in their first real game together at a series of exhibition games in Calgary over the weekend. From there, it was a tough road to tread.
As the squad that will be representing the territory at the Canada Games, to accommodate age restrictions the boys’ team is split between age groups.
While two of the teams they played in Calgary were full-blown midget squads, Team Yukon has to consist of only first-year midgets and second-year bantams for the Games this February in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
“Where I have kids that are 14 and 15, we’re playing 16- and 17-year-olds,” said Team Yukon coach Jay Glass. “So the idea is to challenge ourselves and try to get ready for the competition we’re going to see when we get to Halifax. So we weren’t, by any stretch of the imagination, expecting to win either of those two midget games. What we wanted to do is see if we could get used to competing at that level, and I think we did that.”
Team Yukon did not pull-off wins against the midget teams, but did open the series with a 3-2 win over the Okotoks Oilers bantam AAA team on Friday.
Down a goal early on, two mid-game goals from Yukon centre Matt McCarthy put the Oilers down by one. After fending of the Oilers, who had a lengthy two-man advantage at 2-2, a final goal by Wyatt Gale in the third gave Team Yukon the game.
“They were a great team actually and it was a great game to play, good competition,” said McCarthy. “It was our first game together and I don’t even know how we did it. Right away we were just there.”
In their second game, Yukon suffered a 12-0 loss to an older version of the bantam Oilers, the Okotoks Oilers midget AA team.
“We couldn’t keep up, we couldn’t find our legs,” said McCarthy. “They were probably a little better than us and we didn’t have a really good game.”
To end the series Team Yukon took a 13-2 loss to the Foothills Bisons midget AA team on Sunday.
“It was only 5-1 after two periods and it could have been 5-3,” said Glass. “It got away from us in the third because I think our boys were tired. It was a much better hockey game than the score suggested.”
Down a pair of goals, Whynot scored his second of the road trip to close the gap to one. Then in the third, McCarthy scored his third on the weekend, to make it 9-2. Both goals were assisted by Team Yukon’s first alternate Scott Peterson, who flew in to play the last games after the team lost two players to injuries.
“He played well,” said Glass of Peterson. “He gave us the size and energy that he usually brings to the game. He proved that he needs to be considered a little higher in the rankings he got after the first weekend of tryouts.”
Having spent a few too many minutes in the penalty box over the weekend, McCarthy and Glass agree the team’s discipline is a concern. However, so is controlling the puck in the defensive end.
“Probably discipline. We’re in the box way too much,” said McCarthy. “We need to work more in our own end and get the puck out more.”
“(McCarthy) is right, we have to work on our discipline,” said Glass. “What we also need to work on is playing in our own zone and we want to work on our forechecking. That translates into a 1-2-2 trap.
“We’re going to have to play a little bit of a trap in Halifax in order to be successful.
“We will learn to play a little bit more of a boring game, a disciplined game because it’s the only way we’ll be able to compete.”
Team Yukon’s final selection for the Canada Winter Games will take place after a holiday tournament in Richmond, BC between Christmas and New Year’s.
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