Whitehorse’s rep hockey squads were all over the board at the BC Provincial Hockey Championships at five different locations last week.
Though ranging from a winless record up to a bronze medal, each of the five Mustangs teams took in something to be proud of.
The Mustangs’ midget A team had the greatest success, winning a bronze at the Tier 3 championships in Cranbrook, BC, on Friday.
Whitehorse took third with a 4-3 win over Merritt. Scoring the game-winner in the third was defenceman Adrian Hawkings, rifling in a shot from the point on the power play. Also scoring in the season’s final game were Trevor Hanna, Chris Vance and Trevor Whynot, while captain Matthew McCarthy posted three assists.
“Our guys really played hard. Patrick Soprovich really played well for us in net,” said Mustangs head coach Jim Stephens.
“It was a good effort, the kids really played hard. We were quite happy with the way things played out, except for the semifinal.”
The disappointing semifinal was a 7-2 loss to West Vancouver, who went on to capture gold. Taking a longer route to the semi caused some wear and tear on the Whitehorse team.
“We were coming off two games, plus five games in the round-robin, and they were coming off a single game and four (round-robin games),” said Stephens. “So we didn’t have the energy level that we needed. They got a couple breaks and kind of took control of the game.”
The Mustangs reached the semis with a do-or-die, 6-4 win over Cranbrook, coming back from 4-3 down in the third. In the game, Hanna logged a hat trick while Vance also had a three-point night with two assists.
“We had one goal called back and they got one goal that wasn’t in, so the boys were getting a little frustrated,” said Stephens. “They really gutted that game out. It was a good effort.”
Whitehorse began the tournament going undefeated in three games, tying the silver medal winning Sooke 4-4 in the opener.
Bantams undefeated in Smithers
The Mustangs’ bantam A team may not have won a medal at the provincials, but they did accomplish something no other Whitehorse team did: they went undefeated.
Competing in the Tier 3 competition in Smithers, BC, the Mustangs took three straight ties before ending the tournament with a 6-3 win over Tri-Port.
However, tied with Revelstoke after the round-robin - each with five points - the BC team got to advance to the playoffs, beating out Whitehorse with two wins to the Mustangs’ one.
“It’s kind of funny how it works out when you get to a tiebreaker - who has the most wins,” said Mustangs head coach Kirk Gale. “We had no losses, so it kind of felt unfair to be on the losing end of it.
“We just needed one more win and were progressing well. The word around the rink was no one wanted to play us anymore because we had everyone going, were skating well, and were getting better as the tournament progressed.”
In the game against Tri-Port, which saw peewee-age goalie Thomas Jirousek get the win, the Mustangs were led by Liam Webster with four goals.
“Liam is one of the kids who hasn’t played much rep - this is probably his second year playing rep - and he’s a big kid and is learning the way of rep hockey,” said Gale. “He’s probably our most improved player over this year.
“We asked him to keep it simple, shoot the puck, and he got a lot of goals out of it.”
Before the win the Mustangs tied both Whistler and Terrace at 4-4, and then tied Revelstoke 3-3.
BC rivals throw peewees off track
A hard-to-swallow 5-3 loss to their Dawson Creek rivals was the beginning of the end for the peewee Mustangs at the Tier 3 championships in Campbell River, BC.
The loss - the third close loss to Dawson Creek this season - put the Mustangs out of playoff contention and likely played a part in a second loss that day, having a deflated team spirit.
“They just hung around until late in the third (Dawson Creek) tied it up and our bench sank quite a bit,” said Mustangs assistant coach Dan Johnson. “That effectively ended the tournament for us because you had to be 4-1 to get into the semifinals.”
However, the Mustangs, who finished in a tie for seventh in the standings with a 2-3-0 record, did pick up a pair of wins.
After opening with a 12-1 loss against Elk Valley, the eventual gold medal winners, Whitehorse took a 9-3 win over the hosting Campbell River Tyees.
“The guys had a little bit of anger to get out; we were a little disappointed with our initial game,” said Johnson. “We had a lot of nerves with a lot of the kids being out to their first provincials.
“Against Campbell River we came out physical, got them to back off, and that gave our guys room to put pucks in the back of the net.”
Mustangs’ Jonas Leas had a four-point game with a hat trick while teammate Chance Goodman had a goal and an assist.
“They were hardworking goals, going to the net, getting pucks on net, and getting rebounds,” said Johnson of Leas’ goals. “But overall it was a team effort that brought that win.”
Whitehorse then ended the tournament with a 6-3 win over West Vancouver, the lower mainland champion team.
“We managed to get the big goals when we needed to seal the win,” said Johnson. “At that point the kids were just playing for pride - we knew we were eliminated from (making) the semifinal.”
Nicholas Dobush had two goals while Jack Blisner and Leas each produced a goal and an assist.
“I think these kids learned a lot about mental resilience and mental abilities through the tournament,” said Johnson. “Because skill-wise, we were there. We just had some mental lapses that cost us in the tournament.”
Penalty trouble botches Bantam Bs’ run
Too many trips to the penalty box put the Mustangs’ bantam B team in an uphill battle at the Tier 4 championships in Mackenzie, BC.
However, the Whitehorse squad did take a win and a tie to end with a 1-3-1 record, tying Victoria in second last.
“I thought we could have middled. We let those two games get away from us,” said Mustangs head coach John Grant. “With young kids, you try to keep them settled - they get frustrated.
“At that age, they get down a couple and they get upset and get off their game.”
Before suffering a 9-1 loss to Burns Lake, the Mustangs opened with a 3-3 tie against Victoria, coming back from down one in the third period on a goal from Malachi Lavallee.
Whitehorse then bounced back from the Burns Lake loss with a 4-1 win over Mackenzie later in the day with goals from Liam Mostyn, Max Clarke, Alidas Jamnicky and Lavallee.
The Mustangs ended the tournament with a 4-3 loss against Chetwynd. Finding the back of the net for Whitehorse were Karter Kazekoss, Tamara Greek - on loan from the Whitehorse Northern Avalanche female rep team - and Lavallee.
“He had a great tournament,” said Grant of Lavallee. “He’s a good kid and a smart hockey player. He was one of the ones who kept himself under control.
“And (goalie) Felix Russell played a great game.”
Russell was also in net for the tie and the win.
Midget Bs held to one tie
The apex of achievement came early for the Mustangs midget B team, competing in the Tier 4 division last week in Lower Mainland Surrey.
The Whitehorse squad opened with a 4-4 tie against the Mackenzie Knights before suffering five straight losses.
“That was the high-point because it was a tie, but they competed in most of the games,” said Mustangs head coach Gary Seed. “It was only towards the end, we’d get tired or run out of steam and the other teams would take it away. There were only a couple games where we were out of it early.”
As far as ties go, the one against the Knights was a dramatic one.
Down 4-2 with five minutes left in the third, the Mustangs moved to within one on a goal from Graeme Close, snaking through the Knights defence and deking out the nettminder.
Pulling their goalie for the extra attacker, the Mustangs tied the game on a lightning shot from Devaugn Davies in the final minute. Also scoring were Scott Peterson and Chris Anderson. Daniel Bunn had two assists while goalie James McGrath saved 31 of 35 shots in the game.
In one of their closer losses of the tournament, the Mustangs let in three third-period goals in a 8-3 loss to the gold medal winners, Surrey Storm. Scoring for Whitehorse were Peterson, Mike Arnold and Matthew Keaton. Mustangs goalie Youge Blackburn, who played the majority of the game, made 37 saves on 39 shots.
“We don’t play contact here (in Whitehorse), but every game we adjusted and got better at it,” said Seed. “We also have a fairly young team. Midget hockey is up to 17 and we have 15- and 16-year-olds - and two of our 15-year-olds only turned 15 in November and December.
“The whole team could go back next year.”
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