Yukoners led the charge for Team North at the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships last week in Halifax.
The male and female North squads, which included players from Canada’s three territories including a dozen Yukoners, placed sixth and seventh, respectively, at the 14th annual midget-age championship.
“This was my third year coaching and was definitely the strongest group of girls we’ve had,” said Yukon’s Candice MacEachen, who was assistant coach of Team North’s female squad.
“They played awesome. We came out strong in most games. We had a couple rough starts to some, but we battled back and as the announcer kept saying, Team North never gave up.”
The North’s female team finished the championships on a high note. They defeated Team Atlantic – representing the Atlantic provinces – 6-2 in the relegation round on Friday.
Three Yukon players marked the scoresheet in the game. Adrianne Dewhurst scored twice, Sierra Oakley had a goal and an assist and Monica Johnson had a goal. Yukon’s Maya Oakley, the team’s starting goalie, was between the pipes.
Aklavik, N.W.T.‘s Davina McLeod, who played for the Whitehorse Female Mustangs rep team this past season, registered a goal and an assist.
Sierra, who was captain of the Mustangs this season, and McLeod tied for the most points on the team in Halifax with four. Sierra knocked in two goals and had two assists while McLeod had three goals and one assist.
“The team was feeling really good, we were just starting to click at the end,” said Sierra. “It was fun playing with all the girls and since we were all from up north, it was cool to connect with them too. They were happy at the end to go out with a win.”
Team North’s female squad also wrapped up the round robin with a 4-4 tie against Team Alberta last Wednesday. McLeod and Oakley scored and Dewhurst posted an assist.
“It was sad: we were so close to winning,” said Sierra. “There was 37 seconds left and they got a breakaway … and got a goal and tied it up.”
The team, which also included Yukon’s Mikaela Blanchard, opened with an 8-1 loss to Manitoba, before a 5-0 loss to Saskatchewan (who won gold in both the male and female divisions), and also lost 6-1 to Ontario on Thursday in the quarterfinal.
“It’s hard to mesh as a team when you haven’t played together as a team for a long time,” said Sierra.
“We had a great group of girls and they fought through,” said MacEachen. “If they were down by a few goals, they kept going and kept most of the scores pretty close, which was nice.”
Team North’s male squad, which included seven Yukon players, opened with their highlight.
The Northern team began the championships with a 4-0 win over Quebec-based Team Eastern Door and North on April 27.
Goalie Josh Tetlichi got the shutout while Kole Comin and Jonas Leas scored, Dustyn Phelps-Van Bibber and Bohdi Elias had two assists, and Dylan McCuaig had one assist. All six players are from Yukon.
McCuaig and Comin led the team in scoring in Halifax, each with six points. McCuaig, who notched at least one point in each game, finished with three goals and three assists. Comin finished with five goals and one assist.
The team, which also included Yukon’s Kaine Comin, went on to lose 7-2 to B.C., 4-2 to Alberta, 7-4 to gold-winning Saskatchewan in the quarterfinal, and 4-3 in overtime to Ontario in relegation on Friday.
After their final games, Sierra Oakley and McCuaig both received the outstanding leadership award for their tri-territorial teams.
“But we were so proud of ourselves just getting that far and prove that Team North isn’t just there as a knock-off team, that we should be taken seriously,” added Sierra. “We will never give up, no matter what the odds are against us. Even if we’re down 8-0, we’ll keep playing our best because we’ve all been on teams where that’s how you play.”
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