Yukon hockey player Alex McDougall wanted to ice his 17th birthday cake with a win.
So, too, did the hockey captain’s parents, who were in the stands at the Takhini Arena on Wednesday to watch the squad’s game against Prince Edward Island.
As the second period ended, they liked what they saw.
“It’s within their grasp right now,” said Scott McDougall of a win, his voice fluttering.
A look at the scoreboard explained his excitement: going into the third period the Yukon was leading PEI 3-2.
“They’re showing right now they could win this game … it could happen,” said McDougall. “To win a game would just put the icing on the cake.”
He was relishing every minute of what was shaping up to be a perfect day.
“We’re having relatives phone from Ontario saying, ‘Hey, we see your kids on TV,’” said McDougall. “I don’t even feel like I’m in Whitehorse. I feel like I’m in a whole different community.”
But he blew out his son’s birthday candles too soon.
Yukon got nothing but PEI potatoes in the third period and watched helplessly from the penalty box as the province scored five goals to take the game 7-3.
The Yukon defence slumped in its skates and took several unnecessary trips to the box in the last 20 minutes of the game.
PEI had a powerplay machine that made the Yukon pay for its misgivings, led by star forward Chris Alexander.
Alexander fired several missiles from the blue-line into the top corner of the Yukon net.
While Yukon goaltender Ian Perrier’s glove hand was a precision tool in the game, even he couldn’t prevent what appeared to be an inevitable loss.
Once again, penalties took a potential first win out of the Yukon team’s reach, said 16-year-old Charles Pettitt.
“We’re getting really lazy with our feet and we’re starting to grab and hook guys,” said Pettitt. “We have to stay out of the box. It’s just killed us.”
Last Saturday’s game against Nova Scotia, which the Yukon lost 10-4, saw much the same problem with penalties.
Birthday-boy McDougall lay the blame on his team’s ongoing struggle to end a game with the same strength it began with.
“We’re going to have to regroup to get our third period sorted out,” he said.
But the team was leading PEI going into the third and looked as strong as its rival, despite being a bit smaller physically.
It was a nice feeling, said McDougall.
“We were pretty confident going into our dressing room,” he said.
Then it all started falling apart.
PEI got a powerplay goal 16 seconds into the third. A second one after a Yukon penalty followed only nine seconds later.
“They got two quick goals in about 30 seconds which really killed us,” explained McDougall.
Head coach Mike Young quickly called a time out and handed the conch to McDougall to bring his players in line.
“We just wanted them to settle down,” said Young when asked what he told his captain to say to his players.
McDougall had a different recollection of Young’s instructions.
“He just told me to yell at everyone to see if we could get them pissed off and fired up,” he said.
Team PEI outshot the Yukon squad 53-24 in the game.
In the weak third period, the Yukon squad took only five shots on the PEI net.
Instead of scoring, the Yukon’s players sat in the penalty box and gave PEI the momentum.
“I thought our penalty kill was pretty good, but at the end of the day you look at some of the powerplays in this tournament, they’re just so great,” said Young. “At the end of the day, we just can’t take penalties.”
McDougall is listed on the team’s roster as an intimidating 5’11” tall and 215 pounds.
Asked if this was a bit optimistic, his broad-shouldered dad Scott claimed it was likely at the low-end of the defenceman’s weight.
Alex, however, thinks the stat is a bit high, and guessed his weight is a still impressive 208 pounds.
“Maybe they bumped up the weight a little bit,” he said with a grin.
The Yukon will play Newfoundland and Labrador next.
Newfoundland and Labrador lost its first two games, but decisively beat the Northwest Territories on Tuesday 12-0.