With two territorial rep teams facing off in early-season exhibition play, getting the rust out before the season starts in earnest, everyone is a winner.
The scoreboard, on the other hand, says otherwise.
The Yukon U16 Mustangs went undefeated in three games against the visiting Yellowknife Wolfpack over the weekend at Whitehorse’s Takhini Arena.
“We got better each game, for sure, and I think they were running out of gas,” said Mustangs head coach Martin Lawrie. “The boys played a tighter game today than they did both Friday and Saturday. I was happy with the effort.”
The Yukon rep team won 7-3 Friday, 6-2 Saturday and 10-3 Sunday.
Both the Mustangs and Wolfpack organizations are struggling to maintain midget-age teams. Because of a lack of players there is no Yukon Midget Mustangs squad this season.
The Wolfpack, which brought nine players to Whitehorse, borrowed six to get their numbers up for the series.
“We struggle like Whitehorse when it comes to numbers in the midget division,” said Wolfpack head coach Anthony Stapleton. “It’s tough pairing half a team with half another team, but at the end of the day I think everyone was happy to be on the ice.”
“We try to run a house league division as much as possible, but there’s a small number of athletes who really want to pursue hockey for the future. So it’s our job to make sure they have that opportunity, the ice time and experience good competition like we did here this weekend,” he added.
This season is the second for the U16 Mustangs “elite-15” program established by Hockey Yukon for first-year midget players.
For the series the team added a couple of 16-year-old midget age players — forward Joe Stokes and goalie Dylan Kindervater.
Stokes finished the series with three goals and six assists.
Other leaders on the team include: Booker Daniels, a player up from Vanderhoof, B.C., with four goals and four assists; Isaac Williams with two goals and two assists; and Josh Austin with three goals and an assist.
“I was really impressed with the Whitehorse U16 team and how they worked as a team. It shows that these kids really want to play hockey and that they must work together on a regular basis,” said Stapleton. “Our team in Yellowknife is lucky to get one practice a week. Where, from what I understand, the team we just played against practices every single day together. So it’s hard to match that kind of team that has that chemistry, that has that work ethic, has that backbone.”
The U16 Mustangs opened the season at the John Ferguson Memorial Tournament last month in Edmonton, Alta. Despite just two weeks of practice before the trip, they were never shut out, never blown out, and had two one-goal losses to two of Alberta’s top ranked teams at the midget 15 AAA division — the highest U16 hockey in Alberta — of the tournament.
“The boys started to get our forecheck put together. That was a big part of our success last season and it’s been something we’ve been struggling with, and it started to come together here this weekend,” said Lawrie. “We’re starting to figure out how we need to play to be successful.”
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