A slightly more productive second period made the difference for the Champagne & Aishihik Storm in the A division final of the 34th annual Yukon Native Hockey Tournament Sunday at Takhini Arena.
The Haines Junction squad captured the division title winning 5-3 over the defending champion Gwich’in Flames from Fort McPherson, NWT.
The win for the Storm comes after losing in two straight at last year’s tournament.
“We came back here with a few more bodies and were hoping to do well,” said Storm captain Kirk Gale. “This is our fifth game in three days. We needed those numbers and they paid off in this game because all three lines were going.
“Last year we got knocked out, so we didn’t get to see this team,” he added. “They have good players, they pass the puck quite well. We knew we had to be gritty, had to get in the way and stay out of the box – we took a few bad penalties, myself included.
“We worked hard, competed, and hats off to those guys.”
Down 1-0 in the first, the Storm tied it up with a goal from Scott Horsey, who went on to get an empty-netter with three seconds left in the third.
Scoring for the Storm in the second to end the period up 4-3 were Ed Long, J.J. Cunningham and Chris Gleason. Getting three assists for the Storm was Jared Tuton, winning of the division’s best defence award.
Storm goalie Matt King, who kept his team’s lead when the Flames had a five-on-three for 1:31 in the third and also made a diving stick save late in the period, was given the division’s best goalie award.
“He got best goaltender and rightly so,” said Gale. “He played five games. He was in the zone, felt really good out there and was seeing the puck quite well. It could be said he stole the game for us.”
Getting the Division A MVP award was Flames’ Jonas Thompson, one of four players the team picked up from Saskatchewan and Alberta.
“We tried to defend this year, but it didn’t go quite as planned, but we’re happy to be here – it was fun,” said Flames captain Dallas Jackson. “They played a game this morning, so we’ll put it on that – they had their legs going.
“We had a lot of chances tonight, but the bounces weren’t going our way. Their goalie would make a big save or we’d fan on the puck – it’s just the way it is. They deserved the win.”
Last year’s runner-up, Tuktoyaktuk’s EGT Nanooks, took third.
Wolf Pack sniffs out B division title
After falling behind 2-0 in the first period, the Kaska Wolf Pack from Watson Lake turned things around for a 4-3 win over Inuvik’s High Speed Auto in the B division finals.
The winning goal came from Wolf Pack defenceman Clint Teichoeb in the third, bringing the puck over the blue line and ripping a slapshot past the Inuvik goalie, off the cross-bar and in.
“We have a couple guys from Alberta but the majority of the team is from Watson Lake,” said Wolf Pack forward Steven Murphy, who went down to block a shot and cleared the puck to seal the deal with 20 seconds left in regulation. “We played last year but we didn’t do so well. Last year we didn’t gel – sometimes you get a few bad bounces and you’re out.”
Scoring the Wolf Pack’s first three goals for the hat trick was Craig Anderson, who, not surprisingly, was the division’s top-scorer. Assisting two of those goals was Al Anderson, the division’s MVP.
Finding the back of the net for Inuvik were Dean Smith, Dale Ruben and Travis Gordon, who also registered an assist.
Taking third with a 6-3 loss to the Wolf Pack in the semi was the Selkirk Bears from Pelly Crossing.
Gladiators force mercy rule in youth final
The youth division of the native tournament saw an abrupt ending on Sunday.
Up 8-1 midway through the third period, the Gwitch’in Gladiators from Old Crow and Whitehorse scored to force the eight-goal mercy rule, winning 9-1 over the Champagne & Aishihik Junior Storm from Haines Junction.
“I don’t know if this team is better than in past years, or if it’s lucky, or a combination,” said Gladiators coach Ron Daub. “We just seemed to click this year.
“The kids have heart. A lot of the kids just want to play. We have a lot of girls on the team and some of them turned out to be our best players.”
Scoring for the Gladiators, who went undefeated at the tournament – forcing the mercy rule in each of their four games – was division MVP Alex Hanson with two goals and two assists, Josh Van Bibber with two goals and an assist, captain Cole Comin with two goals, Davenna McLeod – the division’s most inspirational female award recipient – with a goal and two assists, and Mitchell Jacobson with a goal.
Preventing the shutout for the Storm was captain Delean McCuaig, who won the best defence award, scoring on a break-a-way in the first period to make it 2-1.
“I can’t say anything went wrong, they are just a bigger, more experienced team,” said Storm head coach Wes Kinney. “I’m proud of the team and how far they came, being a team and being a part of this whole event.”
The title win for the Old Crow/Whitehorse team is the fourth in a row, winning the previous three years under the name the Gwich’in Bears.
Taking third was the Teslin Aces, featuring the division’s best goalie award winner, Henry Beerstow.
Arrows on target again in old timer division
After taking a loss to the Ross River Renegades in their previous match-up, the Whitehorse Arrows more than evened the score, defeating the Renegades 7-4 in the old timer division final.
Doing the most damage in the final for the Arrows, the defending champions, were Darrel Sturko, the division’s top scorer, and Blaine Demchuck, each with a goal and two assists. Arrows’ Jim Tom Tom scored two goals while teammates Doug Cook, Rick Gingell and Jeff Jensen each had one goal and one assist.
Scoring the Renegade’s first two goals was former WHL player Jarrett Deuling, who was named the division’s MVP. Teammate Rick Newman had a goal and assist in the final.
Arrows’ Adam Lightfoot won the best defence award and teammate Chris Thompson won best goalie.
The Dawson City Timberwolves ended in third with an 8-2 loss against the Arrows in the semifinal.
Lightning strikes for jamboree title
Riding a narrow first-period lead through two scoreless periods, the McPhoo Lightning from Fort McPherson took the jamboree title with a 3-2 win over the Gwich’in Spitfires from Old Crow and Whitehorse.
Twice going down by one in the first period, the Lightning evened the score with goals from Alan Blake Jr. and Mathew Jacobsen. With just 36 seconds left in the period, Kevin Krengnektak, who also assisted Jacobsen’s goal, got the game winner.
Scoring for the Spitfires were Riley Pettitt and Austin Smith.
Taking a 2-1 loss to the Spitfires in the semifinal was the Carmacks Wild, finishing in third.
Contact Tom Patrick at email@example.com