The good luck wish of “break a leg” was highly inappropriate for two Yukon Mustangs teams as they headed south for the B.C. Hockey Championships.
Both the Bantam and Peewee Mustangs teams lost a key player to a broken leg in league play within two weeks of heading to the Tier 3 championships in various locations in B.C.
“We were feeling pretty good about our game. The only thing that happened to us, about a week and a half before … Landon Marsh, one of our top-six forwards for sure, ended up breaking his leg in a local game,” said Bantam Mustangs head coach Kirk Gale.
“We lost our assistant captain (Ryder Twardochleb) the week we were going down to a broken tibia,” said Peewee Mustangs head coach A.J. Beacon. He was a “leader back on defence,” he added.
That’s not to say their replacements didn’t contribute, but every little bit could have helped. For both teams one more goal could have made the difference between a playoff spot and an early exit.
The Bantam Mustangs, who were competing in the Tier 3 championship in Cranbrook, placed sixth out of eight teams with a 1-1-1 record.
The Yukon rep team opened with a 9-0 loss to Mission on March 19. Mission went on to take gold.
“We kind of got psyched out a little bit before the game,” said Gale. “They were a little bigger, some of them had facial hair, and it really seemed to play in the minds of our kids. Unfortunately it affected our legs too.
“If it hadn’t been for (goalies) Dawson Smith and Quinn Howard, that game could have been 15-0. We were skating in sand, it seemed.”
The Mustangs then ran roughshod over the home team with an 11-1 win on March 20. Saul Gale had a hat trick, Ashton Underhill scored two goals, and singles came from Joshua Zaccarelli, Connor Cozens, Hugo Burgess, Cole Cowan, Nolan Matthews and Wyatt Sheardown-Waugh, Marsh’s replacement. Aimery Barrault logged three assists and Ashton Underhill two.
Needing a win to advance to the playoffs, the Mustangs had to settle with a 3-3 tie against Kamloops on March 21. Yukon got on the board with goals from Zaccarelli, Errol Ekholm and Eric Potvin.
Kamloops tied powerhouse Mission in the round robin and went on to place fourth with a one-goal loss in the bronze game.
The Bantam Mustangs took silver with an overtime loss in the final at last year’s championship and won a historic gold the previous year.
“Had we beaten Kamloops we would have moved on and I think we would have done fairly well. We wouldn’t have been embarrassed,” said Kirk Gale. “We were starting to come into our own, it just seems to take us a little bit.”
The Peewee Mustangs went 1-2-1 to place sixth out of nine teams at their Tier 3 championship in Dawson Creek.
“We felt we should have been in the medal round, for sure,” said Beacon. “We started the tournament with quite a bit of anxiety and nervousness with a fairly young squad, so they were a little rattled coming out of the gates.”
The Mustangs opened with an 8-1 loss to Alberni Valley on March 19 — their first of three games in the span of a day. Yukon avoided the shutout with a third-period goal from captain Ty Beacon.
The Mustangs let in a late goal to finish in a 5-5 tie against Mission on March 20. Yukon’s Joshua Schenk had two goals while teammates Luke Cozens, Max Zimmermann and Seth Sheardown-Waugh each had one.
The point they lost — getting one instead of two — with the tie might have made the difference in making the playoffs.
Later in the day the Mustangs fell 11-1 to Dawson Creek, who went on to take gold with a six-goal win in the final. Ty Beacon once again logged the goal to avoid the shutout.
The Peewee Mustangs, who also won silver last year, capped their run with a 6-3 win over Fort St. John. Schenk logging a natural hat trick with his team’s first three goals. Ty Beacon added two goals and Cozens also scored. Zimmermann registered three assists and Jonny Timmons two.
Yukon’s Midget Mustangs placed ninth out of 10 teams — finishing ahead of Greater Trail — with a 0-3-1 record at the championship in Terrace.
Unlike the other Mustangs, the midget team was assembled for the championships and hadn’t competed together all season. Most of the team were first-year midget players from the U16 Mustangs.
“We had a young team and an inexperienced team, for sure,” said head coach Martin Lawrie. “It would be great to go back and play that tournament again next weekend after having those four games under our belt. Those couple of close games would probably go the other way.”
Despite penalty woes, which plagued the Mustangs the whole tournament, they opened with a 6-6 tie against South Okanagan on March 19. The B.C. team tied the game with a five-on-three advantage in the final minute. Booker Daniel scored four goals for Yukon while teammates Joe Stoeks and Caleb Goncalves each had one. Connor Sullivan notched two assists.
The Mustangs then fell 3-1 to Cranbrook, with an empty-netter, on March 20. Goncalves had the lone goal for Yukon. Cranbrook finished with the bronze.
“I think we outshot them 40-19, but we ended up with about 35 minutes in penalties,” said Lawrie. “We did a lot of it to ourselves.”
The Mustangs lost 4-3 to Mission on March 21, with Mission scoring the game-winner on a power play with five minutes to go. Stokes had two goals and Daniel one. Tynan Hope had two assists.
Yukon finished with a 7-1 loss to Terrace — the eventual gold medal winners — on March 21, with over 40 minutes in penalties and a couple of game suspensions. Daniel found the back of the net for the Mustangs.
“We had a number of junior coaches and junior scouts talk to me about five or six of the boys on the team,” said Lawrie. “I think that bodes well for them next year.”
Contact Tom Patrick at email@example.com