Parents of Whitehorse Mustangs players will have fewer anxious moments waiting for game results while their kids are travelling with their teams.
At least three of the five A teams from the representative hockey club will have Twitter accounts this season, allowing parents to keep track of games as they unfold.
The other two A teams – the Peewee A Mustangs and the Female Mustangs – are considering opening Twitter accounts, if they can get managers or parents travelling with the teams who are willing to enter information on their smartphones and tablets.
“It’s a sign of the times,” said Bantam A Mustangs head coach Barry Blisner.
The selection process for the five A teams is now complete and season schedules are being laid out. The following is a breakdown of how the season is shaping up.
Peewee A Mustangs
The Peewee A Mustangs returned from the B.C. Provincial Championships with the highest placement of any of the Mustangs teams last season, placing fourth for Tier 3 in Quesnel, B.C.
Though Martin Lawrie, who shares head-coaching duties with Jake Jirousek, admits this year’s team is physically smaller, many of the big-scorers from last season are back for another go.
“It’s going to be tough. We’re physically smaller than last year,” said Lawrie. “One of the things that made us so competitive last year was the names you recognize from last year. We had a really good batch of first-years last year. They’ll do really well, but we’ll have a learning curve for some of the kids who came out of atom.
“We’re confident that come March, we’ll be ready. We completely expect to be competitive at provincials again.”
The peewees have a total of seven returning players. On board again is goalie Ethan Vanderklay and big points-getters Joe Stokes, Cruz Goodman, Niall Lawrie, Dylan Cozens and Bryce Anderson.
Without the season having started yet, the team has already hit a snag. Captain Lukas Jirousek, moving up from assistant captain last season, is out for six to eight weeks with an injury. Lukas ruptured a tendon in his elbow and had surgery on Wednesday.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow right before the trip,” said Martin.
Quick off the mark, the peewees are heading to their first tournament of the season in Abbotsford over the Thanksgiving weekend.
In addition to a Twitter account, the team will also have a Facebook page in operation.
Midget A Mustangs
Whitehorse’s top rep team, the Midget A Mustangs, has a new head coach at the helm.
Kerry Pettitt is taking the reins from Jay Glass.
“We have what I think is a really good bunch of kids, ready and willing to work hard and learn and understand the skills of hockey,” said Pettitt. “It’s just going to be a fun year.
“It’s not always all about the win-loss column. It’s about developing the hockey skills – do that well and the win-loss column can take care of itself.”
Pettitt, who is joined by assistant coach Colin Lloyd, is the only incoming head coach for the Mustangs A teams. Pettitt has been coaching in the Mustangs organization for the last seven years and coached the Midget B Mustangs last season.
While the team’s coach is new, the roster isn’t. The midgets have seven returning players, including veteran goalie Nigel Sinclair-Eckert, who also helped the Team Yukon midgets win gold at the Arctic Winter Games earlier this year. Last year’s captain, Mike Hare, has completed his tenure in midget.
The team also includes seven players from last season’s midget B squad and three rookies up from the bantam A team.
“It shows that the B program is working as well,” said Pettitt. “We’ve developed them in B and now they’re ready to play at the A level.”
Pettitt is going to wait until after the team’s first tournament before selecting a captain. He hopes to bring his team to four tournaments before the B.C. Provincial Championships, beginning with one at the start of November.
The Female Mustangs team, formerly the Northern Avalanche, is beginning its second year as part of the Mustangs organization. You may want to pick up a Mustangs jersey to cheer them on this January.
Head coach Louis Bouchard is in talks with other northern teams to create an inaugural Pan-Northern Championships, to be held this January in Whitehorse, between the other territories plus teams from Fairbanks and Anchorage.
“It’s in development,” said Bouchard. “We’re trying to get it established so we can have it every year.”
The team, which features eight returning players, will also be returning to the Wickenheiser Hockey Festival tournament in Burnaby, B.C., in which the team won gold in 2010 as the Northern Avalanche.
Included in the returning players is captain Dana Van Vliet from Haines Junction.
“We have a lot of young, eager talent out there,” said Bouchard. “Their skating is very strong. Puck handling and game skills, they still need to work on. But they are eager and we’re happy to get started.”
The midget division team will not be competing in the Whitehorse rec league this season.
Bantam A Mustangs
The Bantam A Mustangs were ahead of the curve last year, using Twitter to keep fans up to date. Now the team is working to keep those tweets positive.
Helping make that happen are eight returning players including both goalies, Josh Tetlichi and Devon Troke. Also back for another season are defensemen Jack Blisner, Ben McClelland and Caleb Marsh, who missed a lot of last season with an injury.
The returning forwards are Nick Dobush and Levi Johnson, “Two big guys up front who we’re looking to lead the scoring parade,” said head coach Barry Blisner.
“Last year we had to rely on a lot of first-year guys just because of the make-up of the team, including the goalies. Last year I think we only had four returning. This year we have a good crop of first-year guys too, who were quite successful at the peewee level. But I think overall it will be a much more balanced team.
“We won’t have to rely on one or two guys as much, especially up front.”
The bantams currently have three tournaments tentatively pencilled into their schedule, the first at the start of November in Victoria, B.C.
Atom Junior Mustangs
Of the five Mustangs A teams, the atom juniors have the least amount of returners with just four.
Head coach Kirk Gale and assistant coach Steve Smith will be looking to them for leadership out on the ice.
“The four we have returning are strong players and they need to show the other kids what it takes to be a Mustang,” said Gale. “They’ll need to be mentors and leaders.
“Outside of the four returning, there are some second-year players who didn’t try out last year but tried out this year and made the team. Even though we only have four returning Mustangs, we still have some second-year players who are playing.”
The four returning players are Cole McCulloch, Kyron Crosby-Pettigrew, Dawson Smith and Saul Gale.
Kirk has not selected a captain and may, like last season, go without.
“At this point, I’m not sure if I’m going to select any or not,” said Kirk. “I’m just going to let the kids play the game and develop as players.”
The team hasn’t yet held a parent meeting to select tournaments to compete in, but the team is hoping to attend three this winter, said Kirk.
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