Grande Prairie, Alberta
For the hockey segment of last week’s Arctic Winter Games, Team Nunavut was off most people’s radar. However, the underdog teams proved themselves more than capable on the rink, winning silver in the bantam male division (beating Team Alaska in the semifinal) and bronze in the midget male tournament.
Unfortunately for Team Yukon, Nunavut’s bronze meant a fourth place finish for Yukon’s midgets, losing 6-1 in the bronze medal game Friday in Grande Prairie, Alberta.
“Our kids, they gave it their best and that’s all you can ask for as a coach,” said Yukon midgets head coach Jim Stephens. “They played their hearts out and I’m happy with the effort and performance, we just couldn’t get it done on the goal scoring.
“Our kids played to their full potential, but we got beat by a really good hockey team.”
In the game, Yukon was the first to draw blood, with captain Zach Moses scoring Yukon’s lone goal six minutes in. However, Nunavut answered back with three goals in the first and second period.
According to Stephens, Nunavut’s 4-1 goal was when the game really took a turn for the worse for Yukon.
“It was a good game up to when they got the 4-1 goal,” said Stephens. “I think right before that we missed a two-on-one there that would have made it 3-2 and that maybe would have given us some momentum.
“That was the turning point; (at) 4-1, we’re running out of time and energy.”
Yukon responded to the three-goal deficit with a more physical presence on the ice, but that helped lead to eight third-period penalties, and two of them were capitalized on by Nunavut.
“Part of the game plan was to lay into the body and try to slow these guys down,” said Stephens. “I think there could have been some calls the other way, but for whatever reason, we had to kill penalties more than they did.
“I don’t think our guys lost their composure.”
Yukon arrived in the bronze medal game with a 4-2 loss to Team Alaska in the semifinal on Thursday. Scoring against Alaska was Trevor Hanna and Dalton Edzerza, Yukon’s leader in points at the Games. Bryden Cook assisted both goals.
“The experience itself was amazing; it was an awesome time,” said Yukon goalie Brad Gustafson. “It’s obviously not the finish I was looking for – I hate to lose – but I still had a great time here.”
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org