One of the top female midget hockey teams in the US was in Whitehorse this past weekend for a four-game series against Whitehorse’s Female Midget Mustangs.
The Fairbanks Icebreakers, who finished third at the America’s national championships last year, were too strong for the Mustangs. But the local girls kept the games competitive and relatively close.
Over the series, the Icebreakers won 4-0 on Friday, 4-1 and 6-1 Saturday and 6-0 Sunday morning at the Canada Games Centre.
“The other team was stronger and passing better; they played better as a unit,” said Mustangs head coach Louis Bouchard. “Our girls were a little tired. Some of them were playing the (Yukon championship) volleyball tournament at the same time.
“The goal was to see if they can play two high-performance tournaments back-to-back – because we were in Burnaby last week. Because we’ll be doing the same thing with most of the girls with the Arctic (Winter Games) and then the (BC) Provincials.”
The previous weekend, the Mustangs went 2-2 to finish fourth at the second annual Wickenheiser Hockey Festival tournament in Tier 2. (The Mustangs, then the Northern Avalanche, won gold in Tier 3 at the Wickenheiser tourney last year.)
“There was a little bit of a conditioning issue, but we were also playing a better skilled team,” said Bouchard. “The girls never gave up, we just were never able to execute our game plan. This team is third in the states, not just in the state of Alaska. So I think we still did really well.”
Getting the Mustangs’ two goals on Saturday were captain Dana van Vliet, on a shorthanded effort, and Sierra Oakley. Both players are from Haines Junction.
“In Alaska, it’s a different situation. We start pretty early and have tryouts at the end of August, and we play as a group for six or seven weeks,” said Icebreakers head coach Shawn Lundgren. “At that point, we take a break and they play on their high school team up in Fairbanks. That being said, these are our first games since the middle of October … Once high school ends, we’ll finish the year as a team.”
In addition to finishing third in the US last season, losing the semifinal in quintuple overtime, the Icebreakers also won an international tournament in North Dakota. The Fairbanks squad has only five first-year players on the roster this season.
“To get (to the national championships) you have to win the district tournament, which consists of all the pacific district teams, so California, Nevada, Washington – there’s about eight states involved,” said Lundgren.
“From what I’ve seen from the Yukon team, they have a lot to be excited about,” he added.
Contact Tom Patrick at email@example.com