Mustangs gallop to gold in Whitehorse

There is something to be said for having a home-ice advantage. But it's hard to imagine that had much to do with the outcome of the Whitehorse Minor Hockey Association's International Fall Showdown over the weekend.

There is something to be said for having a home-ice advantage. But it’s hard to imagine that had much to do with the outcome of the Whitehorse Minor Hockey Association’s International Fall Showdown over the weekend.

Whitehorse’s Bantam Mustangs simply trounced the competition to go undefeated in five games and win gold in the Tier 3 tourney.

“It’s good. It’s nice to have your family and friends be able to watch you play in your own rink and it’s good to win another gold medal,” said Mustangs captain Joe Stokes. “But I think we need to start playing better as a team and we’ll be fine in the season.”

“We’re feeling good,” added Mustangs centre Bryce Anderson. “We’re playing well together, everyone is doing their part out there. Yeah, it’s good.”

The home team grabbed gold with an 8-1 shellacking of the Yellowknife Wolfpack in the final on Sunday at the Canada Games Centre.

As lopsided as the final score was, the first 30 minutes of play were neck-and-neck. After a scoreless first period, the Wolfpack took a 1-0 lead early in the second. A couple minutes later Whitehorse forward Dylan Cozens, who finished the game with two goals and two assists, tied it with a wrist shot through traffic from 15 feet out.

Whitehorse – a.k.a. the Mic Mac Toyota Mustangs – then took the lead on a goal from Stokes, stretching the mesh of the Wolfpack net with his high velocity shot.

Anderson, who assisted Stokes, then found sunlight between the post and Yellowknife goalie to score a power play goal before the end of the second.

Anderson was named his team’s Player of the Game following the final.

“Bryce is a 200-foot hockey player; he plays both ends of the ice,” said Mustangs head coach Martin Lawrie. “He’s gifted offensively and a great passer and he makes the guys around him better. He’s a physical presence every time he’s on the ice. He’s a very complete hockey player.”

The Mustangs turned the third period into a bit of a shooting gallery. Beginning with a goal from Cozens, in poured contributions from forward Isaac Williamson, defenceman Niall Lawrie, forward Johnny Elias and forward Dylan Kindervater.

The Mustangs had already beaten the Wolfpack 9-2 during the round robin portion of the tournament.

“Yellowknife actually played us in two pretty good games,” said Lawrie. “The first one was very similar, it was a tight game for most of it, and then we tilted the ice on them late in the game.

“This game as well, we came out really tentative. There wasn’t a lot of emotion early in the game and started picking it up in the second. In the third they came out hard.”

“I think they expected to win and didn’t realized they’d have to actually play the game. It took them a while to realize Yellowknife wasn’t going to give it away.”

The Whitehorse Mustangs opened the tournament with a 9-2 win over Alaska’s Wasilla Mat-Su Eagles on Friday.

Whitehorse then thumped the Juneau Capitals twice – once in the round robin and then in the semifinal. (Scorekeepers stopped recording Whitehorse goals shortly after the Mustangs blew past a dozen.)

The Eagles took the bronze with an 8-3 win over Juneau Sunday.

“We knew, playing Whitehorse on Friday night, they come with a lot of good talent and good size, and they have a structured game,” said Wolfpack head coach Brad Anstey. “So we knew for us to be a little more competitive against them we had to play a stronger, structured game ourselves: a good forecheck and play good strong defence, even when we’re in the offensive zone. And our guys came out and executed really well. We put a lot of pressure on the defence, our gap control was really good, we aggressively forechecked, and we took the time and space away from them … in the first two periods.”

Sunday’s gold marked the Bantam Mustangs’ second tournament win of the season. The Mustangs went undefeated to win the Seafair International Ice Breaker, a Tier 2 tournament, over the Thanksgiving weekend in Richmond, B.C.

“We played well throughout the tournament, just a couple lapses,” added Stokes.

“It’s really nice to have lots of teams that are close to Whitehorse and have them come up and give us some competition.”

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