The Whitehorse Junior Huskies had a rather ideal start to the spring hockey season over the weekend.
The club went undefeated and claimed gold at the 2016 Heat Blast Tournament in Kelowna, B.C.
The Huskies, who were competing in the 2006-birth-year A division, might just have to try the AA division next year, said head coach Derek Johnstone.
“It was just a great tournament. We played really well,” said Johnstone. “There were four teams we beat quite handily, but it was a good tournament.
“There’s something we can look at: there’s one more division up … Maybe next year we’ll go into that top division just to see how we do.
“If we keep improving like this, you never know where we can go.”
The Huskies cruised over three of the four teams they faced, but the Kelowna Red Heat provided more of a challenge.
Whitehorse hung on to a one-goal lead for a 5-4 win over Kelowna in the final.
“It was a good finish. They had a lot of opportunities towards the end,” said Johnstone. “(Goalie) Taylor (Bierlmeier) made a couple great saves to keep us in it. They had a couple missed opportunities, but we just kept on plugging away.”
The final saw the Huskies having to fight back for the first time in the season. Whitehorse’s Chayce Tuton opened scoring before two first-period goals for Kelowna put the Huskies in a losing situation for the first time in five games.
“You never know how they’re going to react and it’s easy to stop trying if you’ve never been in that situation,” said Johnstone. “But they kept going and we came out in the second period, proved to be back in form and scored four goals.”
The Huskies got back on track in the second with goals from Tyson Matthews, Conner Labar, Gavin Mckenna and Luke Cozens with the game-winner late in the period. Kelowna notched two in the third but couldn’t quite catch up.
The Huskies roared into the final with a 9-3 win over the Prince George Junior Whalers in the semi Sunday morning, jumping out to a 3-0 lead by the end of the first.
Tuton, Kaelen Halowaty, Landon Cowper, Labar and Mckenna each contributed goal, while Cozens completed a hat trick of hat tricks: he scored three goals for his third game in a row.
“He was by far one of the best players,” said Johnstone. “He was really skating well, it was good to see.”
The Huskies kicked off the tournament with an 8-6 win over the Kelowna Red Heat, who they’d later meet in the final.
The close game started out much different from how it ended with the Huskies establishing a 5-1 lead in the first period.
“They took a time out, changed their goalie and did come back to make it 7-6 in the third,” said Johnstone. “Their goalie who came in was pretty good; he really kept them in it.
“Taylor (Bierlmeier) made some key saves down in our end too. Taylor played all five games as goalie.”
Cozens and Labar each scored twice while Matthews, Zander Underhill, Mckenna and Cowper knocked in singles. Jase Johnstone helped with two assists.
The Huskies then downed the Tri City Americans 7-4 with Bierlmeier stopping a penalty shot in the first with a glove save. Matthews, Mckenna. Halowaty and Kayden Smith added goals to Cozens’ three.
Whitehorse capped the round robin with an 8-2 win over the Kamloops Ice Pirates.
Mckenna had his best game of the tournament with four goals and an assist. Cozens had his hat trick and Cowper also scored.
The Whitehorse Junior Huskies plan to knock it up a couple notches and play a AAA tournament in Edmonton next month.
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