The Whitehorse Female Mustangs was the youngest team playing in a tough Tier 2 draw, but it was their opponents’ goalies that hampered them the most at the third annual Wickenheiser Hockey Festival tournament in Burnaby, B.C., over the weekend.
The Whitehorse representative team went 1-2-1 to finish fourth out of five teams in the midget Tier 2 division.
“It went very well,” said Mustangs head coach Louis Bouchard. “We set out with the goal to compete and give our younger players some tournament experience because a lot of them had never been to a tournament. In that way our goal was reached.”
The Mustangs’ first two games of the tournament exemplify the tough goaltending they encountered.
Whitehorse opened the tournament losing 5-1 to the Tri Cities Crew, who went on to win silver.
Contrary to the score, which was the team’s most lopsided in Burnaby, the Mustangs outshot Tri Cities 29-18.
“We dominated the play,” said Bouchard. “We spent a lot more time in their end.
“We met a lot of very hot goalies.”
Mustangs captain Dana van Vliet scored with an assist by winger Maddie Nicholson.
The Mustangs then won 2-1 over the Van Angels, who went on to win the tournament, amassing 41 shots to the Angels’ 15.
The win was a come-from-behind effort, with the Mustangs starting the third period down 1-0. Centre Lynsey Keaton scored, assisted by Sierra Oakley, and centre Linsey Eby got the game-winner, assisted by Mikaila Blanchard and Monica Johnson. Mustangs goalie Maya Oakley got the win.
Eby’s goal was a slap shot from the point that squeaked through blocker-side.
“There was not even enough room for that puck to get by, but it did,” said Bouchard.
The Mustangs then lost 3-1 to the South Delta Storm with winger Chyanne Spenner scoring on the power play, assisted by van Vliet. Whitehorse goalie Ali Nordahl made 30 saves.
To end the tournament the Mustangs took a 5-5 tie against the Comox Valley Drewry Electrical team.
“They were the strongest team that we played there,” said Bouchard. “It was a very physical game. They were fast, they were big, they were mean, they played aggressively.”
The Mustangs had four first-period goals, going from down 3-1 to up 4-3. Scoring for Whitehorse were Eby with two, Sierra Oakley and van Vliet. Oakley also scored in the second.
“We had the momentum. We had them on their heels,” said Bouchard. “They had to call a timeout with 1:40 to go in the first period – give up their timeout in the first period – because they didn’t know what to do.”
Last year the Mustangs went 2-2 to capture fourth in Tier 2 at Wickenheiser. The Mustangs, then the Northern Avalanche, competed in the inaugural Wickenheiser tournament in 2010, winning gold in the Tier 3 draw.
This year’s team only has six returning players, with four peewee-age players and the rest bantam, with the exception of two 11-year-olds.
“They held their own,” said Bouchard of his two 11-year-olds. “They were nervous going into the game, especially the first game, first period.”
The Wickenheiser tournament was the team’s first of the season. While there the Mustangs got to meet Haley Wickenheiser, Bobby Clark, Dean Brody, Darryl Bellfry, Mel Davidson, “Plus we played some pretty awesome hockey,” said Bouchard. “The record doesn’t show the way we played.”
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