Advancing past the preliminary round and losing in a semifinal is nothing to be ashamed of. But the Cinderwood Midget Mustangs can’t help being disappointed, believing that on any other day, they’d be the ones in the final of the Lethbridge Midget AA Tournament held over the weekend in Alberta.
“Some of our players lacked discipline at key times in that Kelowna game and that (Rossland-Trail) game,” said Mustangs head coach Jay Glass. “When the chips were down, some guys made some disciplinary faux pas and it cost us. So we really need to tighten up our game and we have some things to work on.
“We’re not disappointed in our effort, we’re disappointed in our execution and our result.”
“At the end of the tournament we were a bit disappointed. We would have liked to have done better, obviously,” said Mustangs captain Michael Hare. “There are some games we’d like to have back, some plays we’d like to have back. We played well for most of the tournament, but there were times where we let up and that’s where it cost us.”
The Whitehorse rep team had some costly moments on the ice in its final two games.
The Mustangs were eliminated in the semifinal through a 4-3 loss to Rossland-Trail. It was an uphill battle for Whitehorse early on as three of Rossland-Trail’s first five shots found their way into the back of the net.
Whitehorse closed the gap to one goal in the third, had a handful of chances, but couldn’t get the tying goal in.
“We had an open net, hit a cross-bar – we just couldn’t tie it,” said Glass. “Then the referee called a really weak hooking call on us for the last two minutes. So when I pulled our goalie, we only had five-on-five. We had a couple more chances, but we just couldn’t tie that game.
“We really underachieved. We should beat that team from Trail every time.”
Forwards Mike Arnold, Riley Pettitt and Brayden Kulych each scored while Wyatt Gale and Tyler Wiens each had two assists.
The Mustangs ended the round-robin portion of the tournament with a 11-4 loss to the Kelowna Junior Rockets, a team ranked second in BC for Tier 1 with only two losses all season.
After slipping behind early on, Whitehorse clawed back to make it 6-4 for Kelowna with 12 minutes left in regulation. Then too, with a few moments of mental abstraction, the Mustangs allowed three quick goals.
“They called a time out – we were really pushing hard,” said Glass. “All of a sudden they got two quick goals and a power play, and they kind of blew it open.
“Both our goaltenders had rough starts in those two games. I think it was a battle of the nerves. These were big games against big teams and I think they were nervous. But that’s why we’re here – to get the whole team, not just the goaltenders, the experience to overcome that.”
Arnold led the team in points with two goals and an assist. Gale scored and Tyrell Hope got a goal and assist.
“The Kelowna team we played was a good team, they were really strong. But it was still not a good game to lose at that score,” said Hare. “The (Rossland-Trail) game, we should have won – it was a team we could have beat. So that one was harder to lose.”
The Mustangs defeated the Sherwood Park Oilers 3-1 in a come-from-behind effort on Friday and tied the hosting Lethbridge Hockey Hounds 1-1 to open the tournament the night before.
Reminiscent of a similar “bizarre incident” from its previous tournament, the Mustangs scored the first goal against the Oilers, but the refs didn’t see it and it was called back. Not only did fans see it go in, the puck knocked the goalie’s water bottle off the top of the net before quickly bouncing out.
“We scored the first goal of that game but it was disallowed,” said Glass. “Then they scored to make it 1-0, so we had to battle back.”
Against the Oilers, Bradley Koprowsky got the first two goals and Arnold got the safety. Hare produced two assists.
In the tie against the Hounds, Kulych scored the goal, assisted by Hope. Mustangs goalie Patrick Soprovich made 40 saves in the game.
Before the tournament, the Mustangs played an exhibition game against the Calgary Foothills Bisons in Calgary, blanking the home team 3-0 on Wednesday.
Whitehorse’s two goalies, Nigel Sinclair-Eckert and Soprovich, shared the shutout, each playing 30 minutes in the game. Hope was the obvious star with a hat trick performance. Hare and Mike Skookum each had two assists.
“All the experiences in general help and now we know we have to show up for every game and be ready for every game,” said Hare. “We can’t have an off-game (at the Arctic Games) because just one loss can end the whole thing. So we have to be prepared for every game.”
The vast majority of the Cinderwood Mustangs will be playing on Yukon’s midget boys team in the Arctic Winter Games in Whitehorse next month.
As part of the team’s preparation for the Games, the Mustangs will be hosting the Aldergrove Bruins from BC for a three-game series in Whitehorse Feb. 17, 18 and 19.
The team really wants to see some local fans out.
“It’s the Mustangs, but it’s a lot of the Arctic Games players, so it’s kind of a warm-up for the Arctic Games,” said Glass. “We want to get a lot of people in the stands to get used to playing in front of a bigger crowd.
“It should be a real good series.”
All three games will take place at Takhini Arena. More information can be found at mustangshockey.ca.
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