With a third straight title under their belts, the EGT Nanooks have gotten used to bringing home the gold from the Yukon Native Hockey Tournament.
“It’s nothing new to us,” said Nanooks captain Erwin Elias. “We have a lot of the same players from the last few years, had a couple extra guys this year. A lot of injuries coming up to this game – a lot of injuries during this game – but we managed to battle through it and it worked out good for us.”
The Nanooks from Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T. made it three in a row with a 6-2 win over Haines Junction’s CAFN Storm in the A division final at the 39th annual tournament on Sunday at Takhini Arena.
The Tuk team nearly didn’t make the final. They lost to the Storm 4-3 on Saturday and had to reach the final through the bottom of the draw. They narrowly beat third place’s Nannock Warriors of Whitehorse in the semifinal, coming back from down 5-1 to win 6-5.
“I think everybody was more hungry,” said Elias. “We learned from our mistakes from yesterday, for sure.
“We have a few new players, so we’re getting to know each other, and we started to gel the game before this one. We were down 5-1 in the semifinals and came back to be here. Everybody showed heart and I think that’s what put this team up in the finals.”
A lackluster first period spelled disaster for the Champagne/Aishihik Storm in the final. The Nanooks exploited a two-man advantage, scored three goals in three minutes and finished the period up 4-0.
“We had a really, really rough start,” said Storm head coach Michael Tuton. “It seemed like any time we made a mistake or gave them an opportunity, they would jump on it.
“The boys had to settle down and they did. I think we spent the last 40 minutes in their end … I’ve never seen so many open-ice scrambles in front of the net, we just couldn’t capitalize on our chances.
“This tournament means a lot to the guys in that room and to be quite honest, we’re getting quite sick of losing.”
Thomas Ward-Cardinal led the way for Tuktoyaktuk with two goals and an assist in the final, finished as the division’s top scorer and was named Best Defence. Teammates Trevor Kavenaugh, Jordy Alphonse, Andrew Pettitt and Max Kotokak also scored.
Tyler Shantz scored in the second period for the Storm, assisted by Kane Dawe and Colin Dendys. Dendys scored in the third period, assisted by Ryan Gleason.
Dawe was named the division’s MVP and Storm’s JJ Gainsforth was named Best Goalie.
The Nanooks also beat the Storm in last year’s final. The Storm last won the A division in 2011.
See Wednesday’s Yukon News for more coverage of the Yukon Native Hockey Tournament.
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