The Bantam Mustangs is a small team of just 16 players, many of who are first-year with not much experience playing contact hockey.
But that didn’t stop the Yukon rep team from securing a symmetric 2-2 record and reaching the semifinal at the South Okanagan Minor Hockey’s Bantam Rep Tournament over the weekend in Osoyoos, B.C.
The Mustangs went 2-1 in the round robin before a “lacklustre effort” ended their run in the semifinal at the Tier 3 tournament – their first of the season.
“From a coaching perspective, we were quite delighted with our first three games,” said head coach Kirk Gale. “We have to keep in mind Dawson Smith is a peewee goaltender and we had four first-years on defence – we only have four defence at this point.
“So we’re fairly young and this was the first hitting tournament of the year. So that was a bit of an eye-opener for some of our players. Even some of the second-years didn’t play much contact last year.”
The Mustangs produced their first road wins of the season on Saturday.
In the morning they downed the Aldergrove Bruins 7-4 with three third-period goals. Forward Josh Austin, who notched two goals, was named the Mustangs’ Player of the Game.
“(Austin was) working hard, getting a few points here and there, but basically playing a really good 200-foot game back and forth,” said Gale.
Yukon teammate Kyron Crosby scored two goals, Isaac Williamson two, and Oscar Sawicki one.
The Mustangs then posted a narrow 3-2 win over the Langley Eagles. Defenceman Oscar Burgess scored the first two and Williamson sniped the game-winner. Aimery Barrault, a first-year defenceman, got the Player of the Game nod.
“He was really solid in our own zone and on the blue line,” said Gale.
The hosting South Okanagan team was a thorn in the Mustangs’ side, dealing the Yukon squad both its losses. One close, one not so close.
The Mustangs opened the tournament with a close 6-5 loss to South Okanagan on Friday. The home team overcame a 4-3 deficit in the third, scoring three goals for the win.
Burgess, Crosby, Sawicki, Williamson and Eric Potvin put the Mustangs on the board. Yukon goalie Smith was named Player of the Game.
“Dawson played really well, kept us in the game,” said Gale. “We had the better chances in that game but we just couldn’t score for some reason.”
In a playoff rematch, South Okanagan topped the Mustangs 8-3 in the semifinal early Sunday morning at 7:30 a.m.
“Our fourth game, from a coaching perspective, was the biggest disappointment,” said Gale. “We had lots of no-shows with some of the kids. It just didn’t work out.”
“We only had nine forwards and four defencemen going in. One of our forwards, Josh Zaccerelli, got hurt in the first game. So that put us down to eight forwards … Oscar Burgess got kicked out of the last game for hitting from behind, so that put us down to seven forwards. We were really behind the eight ball.”
Crosby, Potvin and Williamson put Yukon on the board and Sawicki was named Player of the Game. “He was pretty much our most physical player in that game,” said Gale.
South Okanagan went on to take silver with a 3-2 loss to Port Moody in the final.
The Yukon Bantam Mustangs, who are not playing in the Whitehorse rec league this year, will be back in action at a Kelowna, B.C. tournament at the end of the month.
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