Whitehorse will be awash with hockey action this weekend as seven outside teams come to town to fight for supremacy.
The hometown Mustangs will faceoff against teams from Yellowknife, Fort Nelson, Wasilla and Juneau, Alaska, in the Whitehorse Minor Hockey Association’s International Fall Showdown beginning Friday.
Nine teams, including two from the Whitehorse Mustangs rep hockey club, will take part in the two-division peewee-bantam Tier 3 tournament.
It very well may be the first dual-division tournament the city has hosted, said Whitehorse Minor Hockey Association president Carl Burgess.
“I don’t know if there’s ever been a standard format competitive tournament like this,” he said. “We’ve hosted lots of teams, have had house league level tournaments. But outside of the multi-sport events, like the Canada Winter Games, I don’t know if we’ve had a competitive tournament in town.”
“It grew from some interest we were getting late summer-early fall, and we had teams who were interested in visiting, including Wasilla – the Matsu Eagles. They were entertaining bringing one of each team to have our usual match-up. And then the interest kept coming in and we decided to turn the corner into a standard format tournament to see how it works. And lo and behold, we filled two divisions.”
The Peewee division features the Mustangs, the Yellowknife Wolfpack, the Fort Nelson Bluebell, the Wasilla Matsu Eagles and the Juneau Capitals.
The Bantam division includes the Mic Mac Toyota Mustangs, the Yellowknife Wolfpack, the Wasilla Matsu Eagles and the Juneau Capitals.
The tournament includes a ceremonial puck drop and “hockey show” at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday at Takhini area before a Fort Nelson-Juneau peewee game followed by a Whitehorse-Yellowknife match-up at 7:45. Admission is free.
“It is excellent hockey and I know it’ll be a great time,” said Burgess.
This weekend’s action comes just two weeks after the Mustangs and Wolfpack faced each other in the second annual Air North Hockey Challenge, a 24-game series with 12 games in Whitehorse and 12 in Yellowknife. Wolfpack won 13 to Whitehorse’s eight, and three ended in ties.
“We’ve only finished half of the Air North Challenge for this season,” said Burgess. “All the teams will travel again by the end of the season, but I don’t know if it will happen on the same weekend like we did earlier.
“All the Whitehorse teams that stayed home will go to Yellowknife and vice versa.”
The Atom Jr. Mustangs will again be the hometown favourites as they host a second annual atom tournament early December. Last year the Atom Mustangs beat the Matsu Eagles in the final for gold.
Whitehorse has also been selected to host the Tier 3 midget division of the B.C. Hockey Championships this March.
“The atoms I think will have White Rock and Yellowknife for a mini tournament in early December,” said Burgess. “We still have the Yukon championships throughout the territory, we have house league teams from places like Tok, (Alaska) calling us for exhibition visits, so it’s a pretty exciting time. Lots of folks want to come to Whitehorse to play hockey right now.”
The Bantam Mustangs went undefeated to win the Seafair International Ice Breaker, a Tier 2 tournament, over the Thanksgiving weekend in Richmond, B.C.
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