HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA
The Halifax Metro Centre roared with excitement Wednesday.
Even though the hometown Nova Scotia team was on the ice, the loudest cheers weren’t prompted by one of their goals, it came from the Yukon’s.
After being shutout in their first three matchups at the Canada Winter Games this week, a fact seemingly known by all in attendance, Yukon’s female hockey team scored their first goal, on their first shot of the game with just 1.9 seconds left in the third period.
At the final buzzer Team Yukon was quite possibly the happiest team ever to lose 12-1.
“The girls have been fighting every shift, and we’ve been telling them, keep fighting and something is going to happen – and it did,” said Yukon head coach Louis Bouchard. “I’m so glad they got to experience that.”
The goal scorer, assistant captain Dana van Vliet, couldn’t find the words to describe her thoughts after the game.
“I can’t even explain it, it’s just buzzing,” she said, grinning ear to ear with the treasured puck in her hand.
“There were a lot of smiles and a lot of crying; almost everyone had tears in their eyes,” said van Vliet of the locker room. “We’re all pretty excited now.
“We’re doing great, we’re staying positive the whole time and we’re doing our best.”
Outscored 53-0 over their opening three games against Quebec, Manitoba and New Brunswick, no one expected the Yukon goal, but everyone loved it. Frankly, people wanted Yukon to get one. A volunteer from Halifax in the media room, overwhelmed by emotion, started to cry.
So how did it go in?
“I’m not too sure, I just saw a loose puck sitting there and the goalie was still a little off to the side, so I just tucked it in the corner,” said van Vliet. “I didn’t believe it went in for a little while.”
The goal, which has caused a bit of a media frenzy in Halifax, came when Tamara Greek dumped the puck in the Nova Scotia end with Adrianne Dewhurst digging it out from behind the net to van Vliet, in the right place at the right time to knock it home.
Yukon opened the tournament with a 17-0 loss to Quebec on Sunday, followed by a 19-0 loss to Manitoba Monday and a 17-0 loss to New Brunswick the next day.
Besides the usual reasoning – Yukon has the smallest population base to select a team from and is competing again junior and post-secondary level players – there’s another detail to the story.
The Yukon squad is by far the youngest team in the 18-and-under tournament with an average player age of 14.6. In fact, pumping up the Yukon squad just a minute-and-a-half before the goal was the decision to put back-up goalie Maya Oakley, the youngest player in the tournament at age 12, in net to end the game, taking out starter Jocelyn Wynnyk.
“It’s pretty much the same as scoring a goal, everyone gives her lots of hugs,” said van Vliet. “We’re all pretty proud of her for going out there and doing her best.”
The young Oakley, standing at just five feet and weighting only 45 kilos, is now the only Yukon player to finish a game above zero in the plus/minus scale.
“I was in net, and when they scored a goal I felt super excited,” said Oakley. “Everyone was so emotional and it was a great game.
“Playing here has been amazing; it’s been so much fun.”
Unfortunately, none of that last-minute magic took place on Thursday, as Yukon suffered a fourth shutout, losing 16-0 against Newfoundland/Labrador.
The Yukon team will now take on New Brunswick a second time on Saturday to end the Games.
Contact Tom Patrick at