Midgets gel in win over Nunavut after rough start to Games

After a lackluster start, Yukon's midget male hockey team was all lustre with no lacking at the Arctic Winter Games on Tuesday. Yukon started cooking in a 6-1 thumping of Team Nunavut on Tuesday.

FAIRBANKS, ALASKA

After a lackluster start, Yukon’s midget male hockey team was all lustre with no lacking at the Arctic Winter Games on Tuesday.

Yukon started cooking in a 6-1 thumping of Team Nunavut on Tuesday. The Yukon squad, which includes many players who competed outside the territory this past season, began with a wobbly start in a 6-3 loss to Team Northwest Territories on Monday.

“Yesterday, people forget that was the first time that group of 17 had been on the ice together this year,” said Yukon head coach John Grant. “There have been groups of them playing, but I think we were missing a little bit of chemistry yesterday.

“We were just feeling each other out. We made a few critical mistakes.

“We kind of reduced those today and played much better in our end. There’s still room for improvement.”

The majority of Yukon players have played together in the past, mostly on Whitehorse Mustangs rep teams, but a lack of cohesion became evident in the second period against N.W.T.

N.W.T. scored back-to-back shorthanded goals and then put two more in the back of the net within the first four minutes of the third period.

“They have played together over the years, so it’s just a matter of getting used to each other again,” said Grant. “It looked like it was happening today.”

Things were definitely happening against Nunavut.

Yukon came out the gate a new team, jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first period. They let one by in the second but had three more in the third, logging a shorthanded goal of their own. Two came on the power play.

“We were firing on all cylinders today, we really found our chemistry together,” said Yukon captain Craig Berube. “John (Grant) has done a great job at organizing our lines together and it’s been good. The guys are really starting to come together.”

The Whitehorse Midget Mustangs would normally fill the ranks of Team Yukon’s midget squad at the Arctic Games. But due to a scheduling conflict with the B.C. Provincial Hockey Championships, at which the Mustangs are playing, Team Yukon execs had to make some calls.

On board Team Yukon are Jarrett Malchow, Wyatt Gale and Alex Hanson, all of who played AA in Fort St. John, B.C., this past season.

Kole Comin and Riley Pettitt played for the Prince George Cariboo Cougars in the British Columbia Major Midget League.

Goalie Tomas Jirousek was in Lethbridge, Dylan McCuaig in Airdrie and Liam Webster in Whistler.

Defenceman Berube played AA for Notre Dame in Wilcox, Sask.

“He’s just a tower of strength on that blue line,” said Grant.

Pettitt and Gale both had two goals and an assist against Nunavut while Malchow posted two assists.

Hanson and Malchow each had a goal and assist against N.W.T. Berube also scored.

Yukon will face Alaska Wednesday afternoon to finish the round-robin. N.W.T. defeated Alaska 6-1 on Tuesday.

Unless undefeated N.W.T. loses to winless Nunavut on Wednesday, which isn’t likely, Yukon and Alaska will meet a second time in the semifinals on Thursday,

“I’m really interested to find out how this team does against Alaska,” said Berube. “If we come out and are ready to go, I think we have a good shot at them.”

“We’re really happy with the improvement over yesterday and hopefully we’ll get that much better tomorrow,” said Grant. “We needed this one today and the guys knew it.”

Contact Tom Patrick at

tomp@yukon-news.com

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