Huskies set for tougher challenge against Regals this weekend

The Whitehorse Huskies senior men's hockey team thumped the Fort Nelson Yeti in a pair of home games earlier this month.

The Whitehorse Huskies senior men’s hockey team thumped the Fort Nelson Yeti in a pair of home games earlier this month.

But don’t expect blowouts as the Huskies host the Powell River Regals this weekend, says Regals player and manager Andy Welsh.

“We have two goalies and 13 skaters, so we’re not exactly full, but the players we do have a pretty high quality, so we should be playing a pretty skilled game,” he said.

“I saw the scores from when Fort Nelson was up there and I don’t think the scores will be that high when we’re playing.

“We play more of a defensive style and with our goaltending and the D-men we’re bringing up, the goal scoring will be down a little bit.”

Both teams have gone AA this season. The Regals played AAA just last season and the Huskies played AAA in their previous season five years ago. The cost of AAA, which all but demands the use of outside players, is just too expensive for both clubs.

“We’ve been bouncing around,” said Welsh. “We were doing AAA and it just got too expensive. And with Fort St. John no longer having a (AAA) team, there’s not really anybody to play. So we made the move to go back to AA and get more local players involved and it’s more fun that way.”

Win or lose, by the end of the weekend the Huskies will have their mandatory six games against B.C. AA teams to qualify for the Coy Cup – B.C.‘s AA senior men’s trophy.

The Huskies will head to Fort St. John for a series against the city’s Flyers in March. The winning team will go on to play for the 2015 Coy Cup, which will be hosted by the Fort Nelson Yeti at the end of March.

“We’re expecting this (weekend) to be our biggest challenge getting ready for Fort St. John,” said Huskies assistant captain Clayton Thomas. “So we’re expecting a tighter game on both ends. These guys have a history in their hockey club – they can put teams together. They put AAA or AA teams together every year.

“Those guys have played a lot of AAA hockey.”

“I think they are going to be a little bit younger and a lot faster than the last team,” said Huskies head coach Michael Tuton. “It’s tough to prepare for these games. We have no idea what they’re like, but from what I hear they are going to be a much better test for the Huskies.”

A total of 1,600 fans attended the two games against the Fort Nelson Yeti – the Huskies’ first home games in five years – earlier this month at Whitehorse’s Takhini Arena.

The Huskies downed the Yeti 9-5 and 14-7 in the games, giving the team a 4-0 record on the season. The Huskies had already beat the Yeti in Fort Nelson in a of pair tighter one-goal games in December.

In the Huskies’ previous season five years ago, the Regals – who were also a AAA team at the time – swept Whitehorse in a five-game series to get to the Allan Cup, Canada’s AAA senior men championship.

The Regals won the Savage Cup – B.C.‘s AAA championship – in 2012 and the Allan Cup in 2006.

They also won the Coy Cup in 2010 with goalie Lazlo Tamasik, who will be starting in net for the Regals this weekend.

At the other end of the ice, Whitehorse’s J.J. Gainsforth will be getting his first at-home start on Friday. Gainsforth picked up a win in Fort Nelson in December.

Both nights are double-billed. Before the main show the Whitehorse Bantam Mustangs rep team will face the visiting Eagle River, Alaska’s Blue Devils. It will be Whitehorse fans’ last chance to see the Bantam Mustangs face out-of-town competition before they go to the B.C. Hockey Championships in March. The Mustangs-Blue Devils games start at 5:30 p.m.

“We’ve partnered up with (Whitehorse) Minor Hockey and it’s working out great,” said Thomas. “It doesn’t happen all the time that you partner up with someone and everybody wins.”

The Huskies-Regals games will start at 7:45 p.m. both Friday and Saturday at Takhini Arena. Tickets are $10 at the door (cash only). Minor hockey players under 12 and wearing their team jersey, get in for free. There will be a beer garden in the mezzanine.

Contact Tom Patrick at

tomp@yukon-news.com

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