Grande Prairie, Alberta
Getting shut out in a gold medal game is a lousy way to end a tournament, but it’s difficult to feel too bad for Yukon’s junior female hockey team since the majority of the them will have two more chances for Arctic Winter Games gold in the coming years.
Yukon’s female team ended their stay in Grande Prairie, Alberta with a close 2-0 loss to Team Alberta North on Friday, taking silver. However, with four 14-year-olds, one 13-year-old and 12-year-old Sierra Oakley, who scored the 3-3 tying goal in her team’s 4-3 win over Alaska in Thursday’s semifinal game, the team was considered an underdog by many at the under-20 tournament.
“Overall they played awesome,” said Yukon head coach Louis Bouchard. “Even our 12-year-old, Sierra – she comes from Haines Junction and basically plays shinny over there and she comes to a tournament like this where we have set lines, set plays and she just baffles everybody.”
As young as much of the team was, it did have its share of veterans who produced in a major way, such as Yukon captain Chantelle Rivest, playing in her fourth Arctic Games, who led the female tournament in points with 12. Teammate Angela Burke was tied for sixth in the tournament standings with eight points and Savannah van Vliet was tied for 10th with seven.
Yukon’s Teneesha Merkel, playing in her second Arctic Games, also rose to the occasion, getting noticed by coaches for her work between the poles.
“The game was a hard fought battle between two very equal teams,” said Team Alberta North head coach Doug Vreeling. “I thought the Yukon goaltender (Merkel) played extremely well; we had a very hard time getting any pucks by her. Even in the first game, the score wasn’t indicative of the play.
“She’s a very good goaltender and the rest of the team plays very well in front of her.
“I think the coaching staff for the Yukon are exceptional; they have some quality people over there.”
“She made the difference in the tournament overall,” said Bouchard. “That being said, our backup goalie, Jocelyn Wynnyk – she’s playing hockey for 16 months and in net for 12 and she gave us an 11-1 win against Nunavut.”
The finals was the second meeting of the two teams last week, with Yukon losing 5-0 to Alberta North a few days earlier on an occasion where Yukon was playing their second game of the day and Alberta North was playing their first.
“We were really the underdog when we played them tired the first time around,” said Bouchard. “Today we came out with fresh legs and it showed.
“We’re emotional – we defied expectations.”
Also scoring for Yukon in the semifinal against Alaska were Tamara Greek and Rivest with two.
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org