Juneau Capitals launch big comeback for Yukon gold

Gloves, sticks and helmets were strewn across the ice immediately following the final of the Yukon Bantam Hockey Championships.

Gloves, sticks and helmets were strewn across the ice immediately following the final of the Yukon Bantam Hockey Championships.

Alaska’s Juneau Capitals let the gear fly in jubilation after winning gold at the championships on Sunday at Takhini Arena.

They were excited and for good reason.

“It’s the first time they’ve ever won any type of tournament or championship ever since they started hockey,” said Capitals head coach Ian Leary. “So they’re very excited.”

Making their win all the more exciting, the visiting Capitals overcame a three-goal deficit to defeat Whitehorse’s Peewee Mustangs.

Juneau won 5-4 in overtime.

The Peewee Mustangs left the medal ceremony looking rather dejected.

“I think they’re upset because A, they lost, and B, they were up by three goals,” said Mustangs head coach Kirk Gale. “But that’s why we play these games and that’s why we play these tournaments. Our goal is provincials. If they get that taste in their mouth that they don’t like, hopefully they can learn from their mistakes. That’s what it’s all about.

“They have to get in these pressure situations and from time to time they have to execute the things we’re trying to teach them.”

Mustangs centre Kyron Crosby scored in the first and second periods – assisted by Eric Potvin and Kyle Bierlmeier – to go up 2-0. Crosby was named his team’s Player of the Game in the final.

“A lot of disappointment, but we played hard,” said Crosby. “We went out thinking we weren’t going to win, to be honest, because we played this team and they put up a pretty good fight and a lot of our guys were really nervous. They never felt this excitement and emotion before.”

Mustangs defenceman Liam Hudson then made it 3-0 on a long shot through traffic from the blue line, with assists from Ashton Underhill and Errol Ekholm.

Juneau pulled within one by the end of the second on two goals from Bill Bosse.

Whitehorse pocketed their final goal on a cross-ice pass from Crosby to Wyatt Sheardown-Waugh in front. Defenceman Kyle Schwantz also got an assist on the play.

The Capitals tied it 4-4 in the third on goals from Cullen Corrigan and Bosse. It was evident to anyone watching that a shift in momentum was complete and in Juneau’s favour.

“As tired as we were, we seemed to get more tired because of that,” said Gale. “The mental game begins at that point.”

Bosse scored his fourth of the game with 49 seconds left in overtime, on a quick shot through the five-hole. He was named his team’s Player of the Game.

Juneau has plenty of experience being in a losing situation, and that was their ace up the sleeve in the final, said Leary.

“They’re used to being in positions like that,” he said. “They don’t quit, they play hard the whole game.

“At a lot of tournaments, our skill level is lower than the teams we play a lot of time. So we’re always playing from behind. So we’re used to being in that position.”

“They never hang their heads,” he added. “They’re always happy to play, win or lose.”

The Mustangs arrived in Sunday’s final undefeated in the tournament that saw 10 teams entered, including ones from Tok, Alaska, as well as Yukon teams from Dawson City and Watson Lake, and Fort Nelson from B.C., who took the bronze.

The Mustangs defeated the Capitals 7-6 on Friday and beat Fort Nelson 3-0 in the semifinal with goals from Crosby, Sheardown-Waugh and forward Keegan Bevilacqua.

As a rep team, the Peewee Mustangs were playing up an age division in the tourney.

“Our kids are younger than those guys, so of them by probably three years, it was our sixth game this weekend and that’s a lot of hockey on them,” said Gale. “You could tell they were tired, but they did well. I’m really proud of them, they did a lot of good things, and there’s some stuff we’re continuing to work on.”

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