The long march to the Coy Cup will begin with a bit of a steep climb for the Whitehorse Huskies this weekend.
The Whitehorse AA senior men’s hockey team will kick off the season in a two-game series against the Bonnyville Sr. Pontiacs, one of the top teams in Alberta’s North Central Senior Hockey League (NCSHL).
The Pontiacs won their division with a lopsided 15-1 win-loss record last season. They went undefeated in 21 consecutive games leading up to the league finals where they suffered a huge upset to the Daysland Northstars last March.
After just three games this season they are at the top of the 10-team NCSHL. The Pontiacs took a shootout loss to start the season and then won their next two, including a 19-1 win over the Slave Lake Winterhawks in their second game, piling 66 shots on net.
To make matters worse, the Huskies will be missing a few of their key players including freshly inked defenceman Reid Campbell. Campbell, who played for the Mississippi RiverKings in the Southern Professional Hockey League the last two seasons, had hip surgery over the summer and hasn’t been cleared to play.
“Well with this being the first series it’s also going to be our first big test of the season. We won’t have a few of our big names in the lineup. (Former pro Kevin) Petovello and (former NCAA player Adam) Henderson won’t be there, and as we just found out our big offseason signing of Reid Campbell won’t be in the lineup until after Christmas,” said Huskies head coach Michael Tuton.
“This will be a really good chance to see how the guys fill in and step up. I’m obviously hoping some guys can fill into the lineup and make some impacts right off the hop.”
Another blow to the team will be the loss of captain Evan Campbell (Reid’s brother) after this weekend. Evan will likely be sidelined for the rest of the season following shoulder surgery, but will dress for this weekend’s games against the Pontiacs.
On the plus side, the Huskies will have new talent between the pipes this weekend. Calgary’s Jon Olthuis, who signed with Whitehorse during the offseason, is scheduled to start both games in net. Olthuis played four seasons of NCAA on the University of Alaska-Anchorage with Huskies assistant captain Jared Tuton. He then played four seasons of pro with two in the Southern Professional Hockey League and two in the Central Hockey League.
Goalie JJ Gainsforth, who has been on the team since it began AA play two years ago, is scheduled to start both games the following weekend as the Huskies host the Whitecourt Wild, another NCSHL team. The Huskies split a two-game series with the Wild last December.
The Huskies will be the home team as Whitehorse hosts the 2017 Coy Cup next March, B.C. Hockey announced last week. As the host team the Huskies will receive direct entry into the tournament — the B.C. AA senior men’s championship.
“We’re not going to leave anything on the table this year; we’re going to go for it,” said Michael.
The Huskies will face off with the Pontiacs Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 5 p.m. in what promises to be a big hockey weekend in Whitehorse.
The Yukon Mustangs U16 team will face the Yellowknife Wolfpack Friday at 6:15 p.m., Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and Sunday at 8:30 a.m.
This weekend will also see two visiting major midget teams take to the ice as the Caribou Cougars play the Vancouver Chiefs Saturday at 4:45 p.m. and Sunday at 10:45 a.m.
All games will take place at Takhini Arena.
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org