Whitehorse’s peewee Mustangs rep hockey team has really turned things around.
After going winless in their first tournament of the season, the team went undefeated over the weekend to win gold at the Winfield Bruins Peewee Rep Hockey Tournament in Winfield, BC.
“This tournament was a good stepping stone to provincials,” said Mustangs head coach Dan Johnson. “There were provincial quality teams there and now this group of kids understand they can compete at this level – and they were the best team at this level, at this tournament.”
For the tournament win, the Mustangs blanked the Juan De Fuca Grizzlies 4-0 in the final.
“They’re possibly a team we might face in provincials – they’re one of the top teams on (Vancouver) Island,” said Johnson. “They’re a good test for us going forward, giving us a standard for us to look where we are in the year’s progress.
“We dominated the game in terms of shots and contact. They were a fairly physical team and we handled that.”
The winning goal came about 15 minutes into the first period from Sam Logan, assisted by Matthew Butler, who led the rush and fed Logan the puck in front to score.
“That got the jitters out of the way,” said Johnson.
Although the Mustangs tied the Grizzlies 3-3 the previous day before the playoffs, it was all Mustangs on Sunday, outshooting Juan De Fuca 13-4 in the first period and 35-11 in the game.
“Their goalie was on fire, so it’s always a tense situation when you get a hot goalie and you can’t crack him,” said Johnson. “You never know if they are going to get one and pick up some momentum.
“Josh Tetlichi was in net (for us), and he was big when he had to be.”
After a goal by Caleb Marsh in the second (assisted by Logan), the Mustangs got two more in the third. With the clock winding down, Mustang Chance Goodman jumped on an open puck in the neutral zone, blowing past the Grizzlies’ defence, putting it upstairs to score. The Mustangs then capitalized on an empty net situation.
“All through the third we were pouring shots on the team, crashing the net, putting pucks on net, keeping the puck deep,” said Johnson. “It was a good team effort, but we just couldn’t seem to crack this goalie, open it up and give ourselves some breathing room.”
To reach the final the Mustangs trounced the home team Winfield Bruins 5-1 with a pair of goals from Nick Dobush.
“That’s when we started playing hockey; everything started to come together,” said Johnson. “We were solid defensively and we were creating chances in ways we hadn’t before.”
Whitehorse’s MVP and recipient of the “Grinder” award (chosen by the Mustangs team) was Butler, who scored the gamewinner and contributed an assist.
“Not only was he good offensively, he was very physical,” said Johnson. “He hit a guy so hard he hurt himself, so he was a little warrior out there for us.”
To start the tournament, the Mustangs steamrolled Vancouver 8-0, outshooting the BC team 36-6. Goodman, Kaine Comin, and Spencer Lessard each had two goals.
“We have the tendency of coming to these tournaments and our first period we are asleep because we haven’t played contact at this level, we haven’t been in intense games,” said Johnson. “So the thinking was we had to get out of the first 10 minutes unscathed.”
Both Saturday games were significantly tighter.
Playing the Fort St. John Flyers to start the day, the Mustangs won 2-1 with Daniel Moses scoring with just a couple minutes left to give his team the win.
“We felt we were a better team, but we played down to their level,” said Johnson. “We let them stay in the game basically.”
In their tie against the Grizzlies, the Mustangs were down 3-2 with just two minutes to play when Jack Blisner scored to balance the scoreboard.
“It was a big game; we went in two-and-a-half points ahead of them and we were close to Juan De Fuca,” said Johnson. “Depending on how that game went, we could have been third place in our pool and not even play a crossover (playoff) game.”
At the start of last month, the Mustangs went 0-4 at the Camrose Peewee AA Kodiaks Tournament in Alberta, their first contact hockey experience of the season.
“Josh Tetlichi in net, he let in two goals in four games, so obviously that’s a pretty solid performance,” said Johnson of the Winfield tourney. “The biggest problem on our team is we have two very solid goalies. Out of the eight teams, our two goalies were (equal) to any starting goalie on any of the other teams.
“We have to deal with: one goalie will get hot at a tournament and has to play.”
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