The Whitehorse Atom Mustangs development team poses after winning silver at the Squamish MHA Atom Family Day Tournament on Feb. 12. (Submitted)

Whitehorse Mustangs bring back silver from Squamish

‘They played together as a team, worked hard and were rewarded for it’

The Whitehorse Atom Mustangs finished second in the Squamish MHA Atom Family Day tournament that was held Feb. 8 to 12.

Made up of players within the Whitehorse atom development program, the Mustangs had a slightly different mix of players than the team’s previous tournament outing to Revelstoke in December.

“I’m really proud of the kids,” said coach Kurt Neunherz. “It was a great year and they worked really hard through that tournament. They deserved that second place.”

As is often the case, the team was not a pretournament favourite.

“We were a little bit of an underdog going down,” said Neunherz. “There were some big-name teams we were going up against.”

The team opened the weekend with a 4-3 victory against the Mission Stars on Feb. 9.

A 6-4 win against the Surrey Thunder the morning of Feb. 10 and a 7-0 win against the Kamloops Jr. Blazers kept the momentum rolling.

Against the Semiahmoo Ravens on Feb. 11, the Mustangs picked up a 4-2 win.

The final day started early with a 7 a.m. game on Feb. 12 going to a shootout where Whitehorse defeated the hometown Squamish Eagles 2-1.

In the final game that afternoon, the Mustangs win-streak came to an end with a 4-1 loss to the Oceanside Generals.

“The kids played great. Right from the beginning they came out hard in all the games,” said Neunherz. “They played together as a team, worked hard and were rewarded for it.”

While he said second place was a great result, Neunherz acknowledged silver can be the toughest medal to win.

“There were mixed emotions for sure. There were kids that were upset and there were kids that were happy and excited,” said Neunherz. “We just kept reiterating that … second place is a great achievement for our team and for our program.”

The atom development program operates in addition to the regular house league schedule, and Neunherz said it’s always a challenge to balance the two.

“There is a learning curve to learn how to incorporate a program into atom house hockey,” said Neunherz. “But overall, I think you could really see an improvement in their skills, both individually and as team players. The kids had a fun season and it was exciting to coach them all year.”

On top of the house league schedule, players in the atom development program hit the ice together once a week for practices and exhibition games against peewee teams.

The program capped their season with an inter-squad game over the weekend, as the atom house finals are in early March.

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at john.hopkinshill@yukon-news.com

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