Hawks muzzle Huskies

Despite adding new sharpshooters to the roster, the Huskies couldn’t win a game in the second series of the season. Four of nine Outside players and two local recruits, Barry Blisner on forward and Adam Lightfoot on defence, were on the ice during the game against Saskatchewan’s Paradise Hill Hawks.

Despite adding new sharpshooters to the roster, the Huskies couldn’t win a game in the second series of the season.

Four of nine Outside players and two local recruits, Barry Blisner on forward and Adam Lightfoot on defence, were on the ice during the game against Saskatchewan’s Paradise Hill Hawks. Nevertheless, the

Huskies fell 9-2 on Friday and 10-2 on Saturday at Takhini Arena.

“Our guys weren’t playing the way they can,” said Clayton Thomas, Huskies forward and the team’s Player of the Game on Saturday. “We have a pretty skilled lineup on paper.

“There’s no one to blame because the team lost – that’s one good thing. No one was skating away with their head down.”

In contrast to the lopsided scores, both games started off with closely contested first periods. On Friday, the first ended with the Hawks up 2-1, with newly signed player Dave Gourlie out of Chilliwack, BC, scoring

on a power play. Scoring the Huskies’ other goal Friday, in the second, was Robbie Wells, one-timing a cross-ice pass on a 2-on-1 rush.

The following night, the first period ended with the Hawks ahead 2-0. Midway through the second Huskies’ Kirk Gale knocked in his own rebound to make it 3-1. Huskies’ Max Kotakak, another new recruit out of

Sacks Harbour, NWT, scored late in the third to make it 9-2, squeaking a backhand through the five-hole.

“(Friday) we came out tired and we really couldn’t put up a fight,” said Huskies head coach Randy Merkel on Saturday. “Tonight we had a whole bunch of chances – we made plays we’ve never made – and we

fought for the puck. Had we not run into that goaltending – he wouldn’t give us an iota of an inch – that game might have turned out a little differently.

“He didn’t let anything in, so it was a little bit discouraging for the guys,” added Merkel, speaking of Hawks goalie John Haggis.

The Hawks’ ability to widen the scoring gap indicates a lack of conditioning on the Huskies’ bench, said Huskies assistant coach Jay Glass.

“I think we need a commitment to conditioning – not just on the ice, but off the ice,” said Glass. “There’s no doubt that the other team got strong or stayed the same, and it seems like we ran out of gas. That’s a

factor from playing rec league hockey for a number of years. We’re just starting the program, so it’s going to take some time.

“Once we get in shape I think we’ll be able to get better or carry our level as the game goes on.”

With many of the Hawks’ forwards being larger than most of the Huskies’ defencemen, size was also a factor, said Thomas.

“They were big,” said Thomas. “I remember hitting a couple guys – lining them up and putting everything I had into it – and it felt like I was hitting a brick wall.

“And it wasn’t any one guy; any guy I ran into felt pretty solid.”

The Huskies team also had to deal with the loss of their star goalie Corey McEachran, who left the team in the days leading up to the series because of family commitments.

“Corey has a lot of things going on in his life right now, including a new baby,” said Merkel. “He’s having trouble fitting all these things into his life and he just doesn’t have the desire to play right now. But there is

the chance that he might come back.”

With two Allan Cup titles under his belt while on the Lloydminster Border Kings, McEachran was named to the cup’s All-Star team in 2005 and tournament MVP in 2007.

“We’re sad to lose him – it’s a setback for our team,” said Merkel.

In the Huskies’ net for the majority of Friday’s game was Brian Power before the coaching staff put in new recruit Roby Gropp to start the third. Gropp, signed out of Vancouver, made his first start for the Huskies on Saturday and played all three periods.

The Hawks’ league team plays out of the North Saskatchewan River Hockey League, in which they sit in third place out of the 10-team division. However, the Hawks team that made the trip to Whitehorse was a

newly assembled provincial team that will be competing for the Allan Cup, Canada’s AAA championship, in April.

“We have a league team back in Saskatchewan and a provincial team – this is the provincial team,” said Hawks general manager Greg Buchanan. “This is the first time we’ve actually played together as a team.

So this weekend was a bit of an introduction for a lot of the players and a chance for them to have a bonding experience.

“In a couple months we’ll be playing our provincial Allan Cup playdown, and hopefully we’re ready for that.”

The Huskies’ next series will be at the start of next month against the Powell River Regals, with whom the Huskies split a two-game series in November. In the series the Huskies will be, for the first time,

showcasing their finalized roster for the season, with five more newly signed Outside players taking to the ice, including former Toronto Maple Leaf John Craighead.

With 667 fans coming out on Friday, the Huskies sold 1001 tickets for the two games combined over the weekend. The Huskies needed to sell 1000 to break even with the cost of bringing the Hawks up to the

territory.

“We’re extremely thankful for people coming out and supporting the team,” said Huskies general manager Jim King. “Our only difficulty at this point is getting a score on the board that is going to keep people

coming back.”

The Huskies team dissolved after the 1992/93 season, going out on top by capturing the Allan Cup.

To get to the Allan Cup in April, the Huskies will have to defeat the Regals in a five-game series yet to be scheduled.

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com