There will be more skaters lacing up wearing Whitehorse rep jerseys this season than ever before.
With the addition of a female squad and a peewee B team there will be eight Mustang teams competing this season, the most ever for Whitehorse Minor Hockey Association’s representation club.
Increased numbers at the peewee level have made possible a B team while the female rep squad, the first female Mustangs team, resulted from the former Northern Avalanche female team joining the club.
“With the success the program has had over the last couple of years, the time was right to become Mustangs,” female Mustangs head coach Louis Bouchard told the News last month. “It won’t change much of the program over the next couple years because I intend to be involved. Should I decide to take a year off, at least I know someone else will have to step in - Whitehorse Minor will have to make it work.
“Now as a Mustang (team), they will automatically be included in anything Whitehorse Minor plans.”
This season the female team will continue to play in the Whitehorse’s bantam house league, compete at the BC provincials and return to the Wickenheiser International Women’s Hockey Festival this November in Burnaby, BC. (At last year’s Wickenheiser tourney, the Avalanche out-scored the competition 23-1 over five games to win gold in their division.)
The female Mustangs are also in talks with a Fairbanks, Alaska, team about a four-game series in Whitehorse this November.
It’s going to be a busy season for the midget Mustangs. The highest-level Mustangs have applied to compete at three Outside tournaments, in Abbotsford, Richmond and Lethbridge, and hope to host a team in Whitehorse, either late January or early February.
The team also has the Rendezvous Tournament, provincials in March and the Arctic Winter Games in Whitehorse.
“I think it’s going to be good,” said incoming head coach Jay Glass, who is taking over the duties from Jim Stephens. “It’s a big deal for us. We have the Arctic Winter Games at home, three solid tournaments that we want to go to, we have a good team here, so we want to make sure the guys have a real good year.
“We’ve lost a few good players, but we’ve moved them on and that’s what the program is all about.
“I think we have a real good team here - and a strong Mustangs B program of players to pull from should we run into injuries or any other problems.”
The midgets have nine returning players on the rosters but haven’t selected a captain yet.
The team will be holding separate trials for the Arctic Games team - Team Yukon - but will have the same coaching staff.
“For the Arctic Winter Games it’ll be a slightly different team than the actual Mustangs team,” said Glass. “We are going to have separate trials and there could be a few different faces.
“There are some kids playing out of town who will be eligible for the Arctic Winter Games team.”
The peewee Mustangs are wasting no time in getting the season underway. The team is already playing in their first tournament this weekend in Abbotsford, facing the Abbotsford Hawks Friday morning.
“I think we have a really strong team, it’s probably one of the deeper teams the Mustangs have fielded before,” said co-head coach Martin Lawrie, who is sharing duties with Jake Jirousek. “We have three really even lines, we have six strong defencemen, we’re still carrying three goalies at this point. We think we’ll be in the mix at provincials this year.”
Team staff are also looking at another tournament in Fort St. John early November and one in Lethbridge at the end of November.
They are also toying with idea of trying to get into the Quebec Peewee International Tournament in January.
“There’s never been a Yukon team go,” said Lawrie. “Part of the tournament in Abbotsford is an evaluation of the Quebec Tournament; they will have scouts there to decide whether or not we qualify.”
The team chose their captain in democratic fashion, leaving the players to select through a vote. Wearing the ‘C’ this year will be returning player Matthew Butler, with Gavin Lawrie, Matthew Braga and Lukas Jirousek as assistant captains.
“What we did this year was we went to the players and had them pick their assistants and the captain,” said Lawrie. “The neat thing about it is every player on the team got a vote. They each had three votes (to cast).”
The bantam Mustangs have not selected a captain yet, but it sounds like there are several likely candidates.
“We have four strong guys back from last year that I imagine will be the core of our leadership,” said head coach Barry Blisner.
The returners are Cole Comin, Alex Hanson, Dylan McQuaig and Marcus McLeod. “They are kind of the core of the team. They are all really high-character kids,” said Blisner. “We have a lot of new kids, but a lot of them have played at the AA level before.
“Bantam is a big leap in terms of size, and the kids that are new to the program, they’re all pretty big kids. And skill wise, they’re right up there with the second-year guys.
“Both of our goaltenders - Devon Troke and Josh Tetlichi - are both first-year but were second-year peewees goalies. So we have pretty solid goaltending this year.”
The bantams will also get some tournament play in before the end of October, playing in Olds, Alberta, at the end of the month. Besides the provincials in Burnaby in mid-March, the team also hopes to attend tournaments in Kelowna at the beginning of December and another in either Dawson Creek or Edmonton in February.
The atom Mustangs, who have not selected a captain yet, have three returning players and three Outside tournaments they hope to attend.
“We have more of a junior squad this year,” said head coach Kirk Gale. “A lot of kids showed a lot of enthusiasm in the camp this year and there’s a fair bit of first-year players. It’s pretty much split between first-year players and second-year players, but from the atom Mustangs last year there are only three.”
The three tournaments on their list will are taking place November, February and in April, which will probably be the last for any Mustang teams this season.
“We thought we’d try an April tournament this year because usually, in the Yukon in April, there’s not much going on for hockey,’” said Gale.
Selection for the Mustang B teams is underway and will be completed around the middle of the month.
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