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Mustangs build momentum in Lethbridge

Whitehorse's Midget A Mustangs don't want to peak too early in the season. About five weeks from now would be best. Just in time for the B.C. championships.

Whitehorse’s Midget A Mustangs don’t want to peak too early in the season. About five weeks from now would be best. Just in time for the B.C. championships.

Improving as they go seems to be something the hockey team is good at.

After a slow start, the Whitehorse midgets went 2-1-1 to place fifth at the Lethbridge Midget AA Tournament in Alberta over the weekend.

“I thought we had a really strong performance,” said Mustangs captain Mike Arnold. “That first game of a tournament is always the hardest. We came out flat and it showed.

“But the team showed a lot of heart coming back to tie that (first) game. It really showed how the team has progressed over the season so far.

“Throughout the tournament, the team just kept getting stronger and stronger. We’re all happy with our performance.”

The Mustangs opened the tourney with a 5-5 tie against the Lethbridge Hockey Hounds after falling behind 4-1. Forward Jarrett Malchow had two goals and two assists and Arnold had a goal and three assists.

“It wasn’t a great start, which is kind of expected when coming out of rec league. We weren’t able to line up an exhibition game beforehand,” said Mustangs head coach Kerry Pettitt.

“We found out how to battle and were able to tie it. In the last few minutes we were pushing hard to score another.”

Following the round-robin, the Mustangs nabbed fifth in a 4-3 win over the Olds Grizzlys. It was another lethargic start for Whitehorse, twice trailing by a goal in the game.

“When you’re not playing for a medal, it’s always tough to get up for a game,” said Arnold. “But we picked ourselves up in the second and third period and once again showed a lot of character.”

Forward Kole Comin got the game-winner, assisted by Liam Webster. Arnold had two goals and assistant captain Graeme Close also scored. Mustangs goalie Youge Blackburn got the win with 25 saves.

Arnold had a Darryl Sittler-esque game Saturday. The captain delivered five goals and an assist as the Mustangs thumped the Regina Aeros 9-1.

“(Arnold) played good hockey - consistent,” said Pettitt. “That’s something we’re striving to obtain for the team: to be consistent, game in, game out, period to period, shift to shift.”

Malchow gave two goals and an assist while Close and Comin each contributed a goal. Mustangs netminder Nigel Sinclair-Eckert made 25 saves.

The Mustangs’ one loss was a 6-0 shut out to Edmonton’s Maple Leaf Athletic Club. The Maple Leaf club went on to finish second in the tournament with a 3-1 loss in the final to Winnipeg’s Eastman City Selects.

“I’m extremely pleased. The hockey I’m seeing these guys play - I’m seeing a gradual climb to the peak,” said Pettitt. “That’s good to me, getting ready for provincials.

“I think they’re doing excellent. They’re starting to come together as a team and the coaching staff is just really pleased with the effort.”

In the Mustangs’ first tournament of the season, they took two wins and two losses to tie for third in Tier 3 at the Abbotsford International Midget Memorial Tournament in November.

They will begin the B.C. Provincial Hockey Championships in Port Alberni on March 16.

“We’re starting our peak now,” said Arnold. “As our record shows, we didn’t have the start we wanted, but the team is starting to come together. We’re starting to buy into the system.

“I believe when the provincials come around, we’ll be ready and have a good shot at a medal.”

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