A rivalry has begun.
Any of the 1,600 fans that made their way to Whitehorse’s Takhini Arena over the weekend can tell you that.
The Whitehorse Huskies senior men’s hockey team hosted the Fort Nelson Yeti for the team’s first home series in five years on the weekend.
There was no love lost between the teams as the Huskies downed the Yeti 9-5 Friday and 14-7 Saturday.
Let’s just say, the penalty boxes had high occupancy rates.
“The only games we’ve played were against Fort Nelson and any time you play back-to-back games against a team, there are going to be some heated battles,” said Huskies captain Jared Tuton. “I don’t think it was anything personal, we just wanted to go hard against each other.”
The Huskies are now 4-0 on the season with four straight wins over the Fort Nelson. They beat the Yeti in two much closer games last month in Fort Nelson, winning in overtime and in a shootout.
The games this past weekend started as close contests. The first periods both nights ended with the Huskies up by a mere goal. In Saturday’s blowout the Yeti twice went up by a goal in the first period.
The Huskies simply had more get-up-and-go in the second and third periods.
“You saw those three lines: it’s hard to keep up with those guys,” said Huskies head coach Michael Tuton. “That was our game plan: to get on them, not give them any time with the puck, finish the checks because that takes a lot of energy out of the guy, and keep skating. We knew they had a little bit of a shorter bench and we had three lines we were comfortable could play in many different situations.”
“It’s a lot easier to get guys to play at home,” said Yeti captain Ryan Carter. “So we came up here really shorthanded and I think we just ran out of gas. They have a lot of good players on their team and as the game went on they were able to take the play to us.”
Of course, when it comes to keeping a team’s energy levels high, it never hurts to have an arena full of supporters cheering them on.
A little over 700 fans came out to Friday’s game and a little over 900 packed the house on Saturday. Less than 200 fans attended the Huskies previous home game five years ago when they were a AAA team.
“It’s a relief,” said Jared. “I always knew Whitehorse is a hockey town. I’ve seen it when I went to (Whitehorse) Claim Jumpers (junior) games and watched, but I’ve never played in front of it. Hopefully we put on a good enough show that they’ll come back out for our next series and support us again.”
The Huskies and the Yeti actually have a fair bit in common. Both teams come from isolated areas and therefore don’t play in a senior league. The Huskies have been resurrected after five years of dormancy this season; the Yeti were brought back after 15 years last season. The Yeti also had three current Huskies play for them last season, making the semifinal of the Coy Cup – B.C.‘s AA senior men’s trophy.
The Huskies, which have been brought back as a AA team, are vying for the Coy Cup and the Yeti are hosting the championships in March. So there’s a fairly good chance the teams will cross paths again.
“We’re a lot smaller town, so we don’t really have quite the pool to choose from, like Fort St. John or Whitehorse,” said Carter. “We got a lot of local guys who grew up playing minor hockey and a few rep hockey players. So we draw from outlining areas a little bit – we have a couple guys from Chetwynd … So when we host the Coy Cup we’ll draw from a little bit of a bigger area.
“These guys (the Huskies) have a lot of really good hockey players, homegrown here. We had three of those guys play for us last year.”
Huskies assistant captain Evan Campbell got the ball rolling for Whitehorse in the series, scoring the first goal of the game on Friday. He later got a natural hat trick, including the game-winner, and was named his team’s player of the game.
Huskies forward Adam Henderson had two goals and three assists, forward Dane Dawe had four assists, forward Rob Stuckey had three assists. Huskies Clayton Thomas, Rob Warner and Rob Wells each contributed a goal on Friday.
On Saturday captain Jared registered five assists, while Henderson and Campbell each had three goals and two assists. Dawe had a goal and four assists and forward Ryan Gleason had a goal and two assists.
Huskies assistant captain Derek Klassen finished the night with three goals and an assist. Klassen, head coach for the Whitehorse Minor Hockey Association, was named the Huskies’ player of the game on Saturday.
“It was good to get Takhini Arena rocking again,” said Klassen. “Getting all the little kids looking up and seeing some high-calibre hockey is a great thing for them. They don’t get too many opportunities in Whitehorse to see grown men get on the ice and throw the puck around. It’s a great opportunities to involve Whitehorse Minor and the Huskies as far as fundraising, 50/50 (draws), get the Timbits and tykes out on the ice.”
Huskies goalie Rob Young got the win Friday and Brian Power got the win Saturday.
Whitehorse racked up 30 minutes of penalty time in Friday’s game. They then had 20 minutes to the Yeti’s 22 on Saturday.
The Huskies are required to play two more regular season games against B.C. AA teams to be eligible for the Coy Cup.
They will host the Powell River Regals for two games Jan. 30 and 31.
“We knew coming in we’d be potent offensively and we needed to work on some defensive stuff,” said Jared. “I think the offence was great, but the fact we got five and seven goals scored on us shows we need some work. The team we’re going to play next (the Powell River Regals) will be a real tough challenge, so we know we have some improvements to make.
“I know Powell River has been a dominate AAA team in the past and they just went down to AA, and I’m told they’re really good again this year.”
Contact Tom Patrick at