The Huskies’ first losses of the season could not have come at a worse time.
The Whitehorse senior men’s hockey team had their Coy Cup run - and their season - end with a pair of losses to the Fort St. John Flyers over the weekend in B.C.
“Any season that you’re in, you don’t want to lose the last one,” said Huskies head coach Michael Tuton. “But we definitely learned a lot and it was a big learning weekend for us. Just the way Fort St. John handled themselves on the ice and the way they run their club ... it was a real big eye-opener for myself and the guys.”
The Huskies lost 8-2 on Saturday and 5-2 on Sunday in the series to determine which team advances to the Coy Cup, British Columbia’s AA championship trophy, later this month in Fort Nelson.
If they had it to do it over again, the team would leave an extra day for travel, said Tuton.
“We spent 15, 16 hours on the bus. We rolled into Fort St. John Saturday afternoon and had to play Saturday night,” he said. “In that game we opened with the lead, but we had no legs, we couldn’t keep up. We couldn’t get anything going on the Saturday night.”
“Then we had a good sleep in the hotel, slept in a bed instead of in the bus, and we came out looking much better on Sunday,” added Tuton. “We scored the first two goals of the game ... Then in the third period we had a couple breakdowns. They jumped on their opportunities and we didn’t.”
The Huskies had leads both days. In Sunday’s deciding game, they led 1-0 at the end of the first and 2-1 at the end of the second. But two disastrous minutes in the third, in which the Flyers scored three goals, put the final nails in the coffin.
The Whitehorse squad was missing four of the team’s five former NCAA players with Drew Pettitt, Adam Henderson, Rob Warner and Derek Klassen missing the road trip.
“That’s a lot of points out of the line-up,” said Tuton. “We told the guys on the bus, we really believe we could have done it with the guys there. Maybe with an extra day of travel and I think we cold have won that game Sunday, we just had a breakdown of a couple minutes where they scored three goals in two minutes and one second.”
The Huskies went into the game with an 8-0 season record. They produced four wins over the Fort Nelson Yeti, two over the Powell River Regals, who won the Coy Cup in 2010, and two over the Yellowknife Flyers in a two-game series in the middle of February.
“It was very good hockey. I was quite impressed with Whitehorse,” said Flyers president Paul von Nostrand. “We didn’t have any idea what to expect. The only player I had seen play over the years was (Huskies forward) Clayton Thomas when he played for Fort Nelson last year and (assistant captain) Evan Campbell when he was a midget in town here.”
Scoring for Whitehorse were forwards Rob Stuckey and Kane Dawe on Saturday. Captain Jared Tuton and fellow blue-liner Simon Nugent scored on Sunday.
Huskies goalie J.J. Gainesforth was in net both games.
“On Sunday, in the first 40 minutes, he made some unbelievable saves,” said Tuton. “In the third we had a team breakdown - nothing to hang on the goalie.”
The Flyers, who won the Allan Cup - Canada’s AAA championship - in 2010, are in just their second season back in AA. The club played AA for about 45 years, before moving to AAA for a few seasons, but has never won the Coy Cup. The Flyers did not register for the Coy Cup last season, which is why Fort St. John and Whitehorse had to face-off in the series over the weekend.
“Their club is top-notch. Even though we took two losses, there’s a lot we’re bringing home to next year’s Huskies club and we’ll be back for sure,” said Tuton. “We’re looking to make the organization a little bigger on the business side of things.”
“We’ll stick with AA for sure ... Our main focus going forward is to be a place where local players can play.”
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