PRINCE GEORGE, B.C.
Yukon’s female hockey team has a very modest aim for the rest of the Canada Winter Games.
They want another goal.
“Our goal as a team is to get four goals throughout the entire tournament … because the highest Yukon has ever gotten is three and we’re tied that right now,” said Yukon captain Sierra Oakley. “We just want one so badly to push it over just so we can say we beat it.”
The Yukon squad has pocketed three goals over three losses so far in Prince George.
They lost 14-1 to Newfoundland on Saturday, 14-0 to New Brunswick on Sunday and 7-2 to rival territory N.W.T. on Monday.
To put things in perspective, Yukon scored just one goal in a total of six games at the 2011 Games in Halifax and three goals at the 2007 Games in Whitehorse.
They are also the youngest team at the Games this week with an average age of 15. N.W.T.‘s team at the under-18 tournament is just a tad bit older.
“This team probably has a lot more chemistry than the one I coached in 2011,” said Yukon head coach Louis Bouchard. “We’re moving the puck a lot better. When you have 17-year-olds playing 14-year-olds, obviously it’s going to impact your play.”
Oakley has so far led the charge offensively. She scored against Newfoundland unassisted, finding the back of the net with a slapper from the top of the circle.
She then went upstairs against N.W.T. six and a half minutes in, giving Yukon a 1-0 lead.
Later in the game, Yukon defenceman Zoe Leas – the youngest player in the tournament at age 11 – dug a backhand out of the corner that went off the skate of teammate Maddie Nicholson and in, with 6.9 seconds left in the second period to make it 5-2.
“We came out strong the first couple of shifts, got a goal, and kind of sat back and they took advantage of that,” said Bouchard. “The shots on net were about 30-19, so it shows they out-shot us, they out-worked us, they deserved to win.
“We picked it up in the third, got a lot more shots on net, just ran out of time.”
Yukon is a young team, but its resume is fairly impressive. Thirteen played for Yukon at the 2014 Arctic Winter Games. Oakley, her sister (and goalie) Maya Oakley and Chyanne Spenner, even played for Yukon at the 2011 Games in Halifax.
“It’s crazy coming back. I don’t remember much of the last Games because I just turned 12,” said Maya, who stopped 44 of 58 shots from Team New Brunswick. “It’s different because at these Games I’ve been playing full games. At the last Games I’d go in for the last three minutes of each game to get the experience.”
“It’s been amazing. It’s been a really good experience for all the girls,” said Sierra of the Games. “I’m one of the lucky ones, because I’ve participated in it twice. Most people only get to do this once in a lifetime.”
Newfoundland and New Brunswick, who both beat N.W.T. over the weekend, will now go to the qualification round for a chance of making the quarterfinal.
Yukon will play in the placement rounds beginning Wednesday. They will first face the losing team from a Nova Scotia-Newfoundland matchup.
Just in case it’s of interest, Yukon’s one goal in 2011 was against Nova Scotia.
“The girls played amazing and I’m really proud to be captain of this team,” added Sierra.
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org