After opening the 2019 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships with two losses in round-robin play, things were simple for the female Team North — win and keep playing.
Officially seeded ninth, the team took to the ice the morning of May 9 for a must-win game against Team Eastern Door and North, the team representing Quebec, with the winner moving to the qualifying round and the loser dropped into the relegation round.
It was the North that struck first, and last for that matter, putting in a solid team effort to win 7-0.
Scoring for Team North were Chandelle Leonard, captain Samantha McLeod with two and alternate captain Kyra McDonald with a staggering four goals.
With two in the first, three in the second and two in the third, it was a steady, balanced attack that propelled Team North to victory.
Players of the game were Breeze Lahache for Team EDN and McDonald for Team North.
That win kept Team North’s hopes alive and set up a game later that evening against fifth-seeded Team New Brunswick for a spot in the quarter-finals.
The game started out with a feeling out process as both teams tried to find ways to attack without creating opportunities for their opponents.
Scoreless after one, the feeling in the arena was it would be a tight contest to the finish.
That mood continued into the second period, when Team North struck first to take the lead.
McLeod scored at 9:59, assisted by Maiya Nadrowski, to break the tie.
Like is so often the case, a single goal was enough to bring both teams out of their shells and the goals came fast and furious.
Team North scored again just 14 seconds later — McDonald from Charlotte Siksik at 9:41 — to grab a two-goal lead before Team New Brunswick answered just over a minute later with a goal from Martine Hache, assisted by Cassandra Larry and Keala Augustine, at 8:39.
Still not done scoring, Team North added another two before the end of the second — both from McDonald — to make the score 4-1 for the host team after two periods.
In the third period, Team North added another goal at 8:25 — Siksik from Piper Fordham — making the final score 5-1.
Candice MacEachen, assistant coach for Team North, said the team has benefited from spending time together.
“The big thing is just coming from three territories, not playing together, just getting experience,” said MacEachen. “Overall it was just that connection of finding lines that worked. We did some swaps over the first couple of games to see what worked and it seemed like the last couple games we’ve found the players that work well together. … Obviously it’s paying off.”
Asked about any adjustments the coaching staff would like to see before the team’s quarter-final rematch with Team B.C., she said it’s best not to tinker too much with a good thing.
“When things are working, we keep it. Obviously if there were things not going well, then we’d switch it up,” said MacEachen. “But with a 7-0 and a 5-1 game, we’re not going to change much.”
Team North plays Team B.C. at 2:45 p.m. at the Canada Games Centre on May 10 for a spot in the semifinals on Saturday. This is the first time the team has reached this stage of the competition.
Team North male team falters in rematch with Team Ontario
After opening the tournament with a win against Ontario and a loss to Manitoba, the male Team North entered the qualification round ranked sixth with another game against Team Ontario on May 9 for a spot in the quarter-finals.
Team North lost 5-2.
Having held on for a 4-3 win on May 8 in what was a very, very physical game with close to two dozen penalties, both teams knew what they were in for and early on the game seemed to follow the script.
Team Ontario struck first, this time out when Pineshish Whiteduck scored at 15:58 of the first period, assisted by Ethan Carlson-Jourdain and Sabastian Sutherland.
After an Ontario penalty gave the North a man advantage, Ryan Eegeesiak-McIntosh scored on the power play at 12:00 assisted by Brett Walchuk and Ian-Burton Attungala to tie the game 1-1.
Ontario responded later in the period at 8:47 when Brody Belanger scored with help from Carlson-Jourdain and Whiteduck.
Not willing to budge, Attungala scored with an assist to Walchuk to tie the game 2-2 after 20 minutes.
Although individual plays rarely if ever decide a game, a bad line change in the second period by Team North left Ontario with a three-on-zero on goaltender Liam Tereposky, which Carlson-Jourdain converted at 13:47 to give Ontario the lead.
A quiet first period for the penalty box door operators didn’t carry over into the second period though as the two teams combined for 26 minutes in penalties and misconducts.
In the third period, Team North continued to search for an equalizer before a tripping penalty led to the fourth Ontario goal at 6:32 of the third when Tanner Flood scored just 23 seconds into the power play.
Ontario later added an empty-net goal in the final minute to make the final score 5-2.
The players of the game were Landon Marsh for Team North and Whiteduck for Team Ontario.
Team North splits round-robin games
The male Team North finished round-robin play on May 8 with a 1-1 record after games against Ontario and Manitoba.
In the first game of the championships for Team North, the team came out strong with three goals in the first period against Ontario.
Scoring for Team North were Trey Beck, Ashton Underhill and Eegeesiak-McIntosh, while Ontario managed one tally in the opening frame courtesy of Gabinien Kioki.
In the second, Walchuk scored what proved to be the game winner at 13:37 when he beat the goaltender with an assist from Mackenzie Shigwadja.
Team Ontario battled back in the third, scoring twice in the first 10 minutes and setting up an exciting finish.
Team North stepped up defensively and held on for the win, notably not taking a penalty in the final 11 minutes of the game.
Later that day, Team North was back on the ice against Team Manitoba.
After going down two goals after the first , Team North responded with an unassisted short-handed goal from Walchuk to cut the lead in half.
Team Manitoba responded though, adding a third just five minutes later, pushing the lead back to two goals at 3-1 after two.
In the third, Manitoba added a fourth and final goal to make the final score Team Manitoba 4-1 winners.
Contact John Hopkins-Hill at email@example.com