It’s going to be Whitehorse versus Whitecourt next month in the Yukon capital.
The Nuway Crushing Whitehorse Huskies have booked a two-game weekend series with Alberta’s Whitecourt Wild, it was announced this week.
The two senior men’s AA hockey clubs will meet for the first time Dec. 12 and 13 at Whitehorse’s Takhini Arena.
“The guys are all really excited,” said Wild general manager Mitch Ternan. “I don’t believe anybody on our team has been to Whitehorse before. One player has some family up there who he’s never met.
“We’re definitely excited - hope to see a good turnout at the games.”
The Huskies are doubtlessly breathing a sigh of relief with the series being set.
The club’s season was thrown into disarray at the end of October when the Fort Nelson Yeti, with whom the Huskies had four games scheduled, announced the cancelation of their season.
The Huskies’ main goal for the season was to play for the Coy Cup - British Columbia’s AA championship trophy. With the collapse of the Yeti organization, it was beginning to look as if the Huskies wouldn’t secure the six mandatory, B.C. Hockey-recognized games to be eligible for the Cup.
“With Fort Nelson having folded it made it quite a bit more challenging, so I essentially fanned out across Alberta and B.C., talked to pretty much all the leagues and most of the teams,” said Huskies president and general manager Matt King. “We’re pretty happy to get Whitecourt on board. They’re excited to come up here and see the Yukon and have hockey games ...
“We have some more certainty with the season. We didn’t really realize how important Fort Nelson was for us. They’re easy to get to, it’s an easy four games - we could even play more with them. We had four games lined up - we would have had two of the games completed by now.”
The Whitecourt Wild is playing its third season in Alberta’s North Central Senior Hockey League and are currently sitting with a 2-6 record. (The town of Whitecourt, which has a population of about 10,000, is approximately 150 kilometre northwest of Edmonton.)
The Wild lost in the league’s semifinal in last season’s playoffs.
“It’s starting to come together for us now. We had a bit of a slow start,” said Ternan. “It’s senior hockey and a lot of the guys are working and away, so we’ve been slow getting our core group back together for the past couple weeks.”
“We have a couple players on our roster who have some pro experience in Europe and the U.S. ... Maybe the East Coast Hockey League, the Central Hockey League,” he added. “The majority of the team is made up of ex junior and college players.”
The Huskies are also in talks with the North Island Capitals, a senior AA team from Port Hardy on Vancouver Island, for a series in early January.
The Whitehorse club then hopes for a third series soon after to reach the magic number of six and qualify for the Coy Cup.
“The third series - the fifth and sixth games - we’re tentatively booking for mid to late January,” said King. “We’re just talking to B.C. Hockey to make sure that’s going to be OK for their deadline. We have a couple options for later in January.”
“What we’re trying to do is have them all as home series here in Whitehorse,” continued King. “There are a lot of logistics and costs and the rest of it. It’s not easy to get teams to travel and a lot of the teams in B.C. and Alberta are in leagues, so they don’t have many holes in their schedule.”
The Huskies were scheduled to play the Yeti in Fort Nelson Nov. 13 and 14 and then host the Yeti Dec. 11 and 12.
A “player shortage” was the main cause for the team’s decision to scrub the season, said Yeti captain and general manager Ryan Carter.
“Senior hockey is quite like this: a few key guys missing and it really changes the landscape, especially in a town of ours that is only 3,000 people,” said Carter in a recent interview.
“The economy is really hurting. A couple guys get laid off or a couple guys move away, it really changes the landscape.”
The Huskies went undefeated in eight exhibition games with four wins over the Fort Nelson Yeti, two over the Powell River Regals and two over the Yellowknife Flyers last season.
Whitehorse then lost two straight in a best-of-three playoff series to the Fort St. John Flyers in March, ending the team’s Coy Cup run. The Flyers went on to win the Coy Cup, defeating the Terrace River Kings in the final.
The 2016 Coy Cup will be held this March in Terrace.
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