Gritty Mustangs fight back for bantam gold

The Yukon rep team overcame injuries, illness and a two-goal deficit in the final to win the Yukon Bantam Hockey Championships at Takhini Arena on Sunday.

The Peewee Mustangs showed mettle matters over the weekend.

The Yukon rep team overcame injuries, illness and a two-goal deficit in the final to win the Yukon Bantam Hockey Championships at Takhini Arena on Sunday.

“It was a real character game for them,” said Mustangs assistant coach Mike Cozens. “They didn’t let themselves get down. They believed they could come back and they did. The kids work a lot at working as a unit, and they know if they do that, it’s going to pay off for them in the end.”

The Mustangs team, which plays up an age division, took gold with a 5-3 win over Castle Rock in the final.

They found themselves down 2-0 six minutes in before scoring five straight goals.

“The team just pulled together. We got that one goal and after that we just started going,” said Mustangs defenceman Connor Cozens. “We weren’t ready for those two goals right away. We didn’t expect them to come out so strong like that. We pulled through after that.”

“We weren’t getting out of our zone fast enough,” said Mustangs centre Landon Marsh. “We all pitched in and our goaltender (Joshua Wallness) helped us out.”

Mustangs centre Errol Eckholm scored a hat trick in the final, including the game-winner. Teammates Joshua Schenk and Joey Schultz also found the back of the net, while Connor Cozens and Ashton Underhill logged two assists each.

Eckholm was named his team’s MVP for the final.

“Errol is a dynamic forward. He reminds me a little of the Tasmanian Devil a little bit,” said Mike, referring to the Looney Tunes character. “He’s a whirling dervish on the ice at times. He covers both ends really well, is a good defensive player and a good offensive player, great shot. And he’s never lazy on the ice; he’s always working really hard.”

The Mustangs saw their bench grow short during the championships. They lost forward Ty Beacon, one of the team’s top scorers, to a concussion in their second game. They also lost Zeb Blower to a hand injury towards the end of the final when he was checked into the boards.

Their semifinal also got a little rough for the Mustangs, who won 8-1 win over Fort Nelson CMP Sports Sunday morning. Schultz notched a hat trick and Underhill a goal and three assists in the game.

“We were dominating the whole time and in the third period it started getting pretty rough,” said Connor. “In the last shift they ran me (into the boards) and they slashed three of our players.”

The Mustangs had players struggling with illness over the weekend. But they weren’t about to let a flu bug keep them off the ice.

“In the semifinal we had a few guys feeling pretty sick. They’d leave the bench for five to 10 minutes, then we’d be down short, and they’d show up and say, ‘We’re good for a few more shifts,’” said Mike. “It’s a really good group of kids. They have a lot of character, they work hard and it’s a lot of fun to coach them.”

Castle Rock’s goals in the final came from Colton Webb, Kyle Bierlmeier and Austin Shaw. Jesse Goodman helped with two assists.

Shaw, who plays defence, was named his team’s MVP in the final.

“He’s got a lot of energy and he played consistently throughout the tournament,” said Castle Rock assistant coach Bill Waugh.

“We had a good tournament. We went with five wins there and got to the gold medal game,” he added. “But that Peewee Mustangs team plays really well. They’re structured and they’re hungry – they go for the puck. So we had to counter that and just ran out of steam.”

The Mustangs finished the round robin with three wins and a 1-1 tie against third place’s DGC Stingers. DGC took bronze with a sound 12-4 win over Fort Nelson CMP Sports. Stingers’ Jarod McCulloch had two goals and three assists and teammate Jackson Benn three goals and one assist in the game.

Tetra Tech EBA picked up fifth place with a 9-4 win over the Dawson City Miners in the five-six game. Tetra Tech’s Lochie Fraser was a tetra scorer with four goals and teammate Logan McKay had three goals and an assist for the win.

Watson Lake took seventh with a 9-8 overtime win over Tok Interior Heat. Jim Jimmy scored the game-winner and teammate Jack Jimmy posted four goals and two assists.

An Inuvik/Tuktoyaktuk/Haines Junction mixed team placed ninth with a 7-2 win over the Female Mustangs. Dawson Weir and Clyde Elanik both scored twice for the mixed team in the game.

The Peewee Mustangs claimed silver at last year’s championship, losing to Alaska’s Juneau Capitals in overtime in the final.

“It’s pretty cool,” said Connor, a second-year player with the team. “It was definitely good to win it this year.”

Contact Tom Patrick at

tomp@yukon-news.com

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