After more than a month of scrimmages, drills and practice games, the Yukon Amateur Hockey Association this week released the rosters for the three teams that will represent the territory at the Arctic Winter Games next month in Whitehorse.
All three squads are mostly comprised of players from the Whitehorse Mustangs rep teams. But unlike the young bantam male team, the midget male and female teams are loaded with players with past major Games experience.
With the exception of two alternates, the entire Yukon midget males squad is made up of members of the Cinderwood Midget Mustangs, Whitehorse’s top male representative team.
“They are the best players in the territory, so it was obvious that most of them would be there,” said head coach Jay Glass, who also coaches the Cinderwood Mustangs. “We just had to figure out what players from Outside we wanted to use. We figure we have three lines that can all break a game open.
“We were looking for a good, fast team and we think we have a lot of talent.”
Six forwards and two defencemen played for the Yukon at the 2011 Canada Winter Games. Goalie Nigel Sinclair-Eckert played at the Canada Games and was in net when the Yukon boys became the first territorial team – boys’ or girls’- to defeat a province in Games history. In the 2-1 win over Team Newfoundland and Labrador, Sinclair-Eckert made a remarkable 53 saves.
Two forwards and two defencemen played for the Yukon at the 2010 Arctic Winter Games in Grande Prairie, Alta.
Those who played for the Yukon at both the major Games are forwards Wyatt Gale and Mike Arnold, defenceman Graham Close, and alternates Chase Hobbis and Youje Blackburn.
The team also includes two Yukoners, forwards Cole Morris and Tyson Glass, who have been playing outside the territory this season. While playing for Kelowna’s Pursuit of Excellence, Morris logged 17 points in 43 games and Glass 21 in the same amount. (Morris and Tyson Glass are also on the Mustangs’ roster.)
So far this season the Cinderwood Mustangs handily won the Abbotsford Midget Memorial 2011 Tournament in November in Tier 3. They then took third in the Richmond International Midget Hockey Tournament over the Christmas holidays, defeating teams from California and Las Vegas to reach the semifinal.
Riley Pettitt leads the Mustangs in points with 51 in 29 games. Tyrell Hope is second in points with 48 in 33 games and Wyatt Gale is third on the team in points with 47 in 32 games.
“We’re going to do well. How we fare medal-wise will be subject to how good the competition is and how well we execute,” said Glass, who will be behind the bench with assistant coach Kirk Gale. “We should be right in there, in the hunt for the gold medal.
“The thing is you never know because you don’t know what Alaska is sending, you don’t know what Nunavut is going to send. (Nunavut) can pick up players from Northern Ontario, so they could be strong.
“If we play our game we should be competitive with everybody there.”
Yukon’s junior female team is packed to the gills with Games experience. Defenceman Jolene Pitts and alternate Jonnie-Lyn Kushniruk are the only two players representing the Yukon for the first time.
In fact, the team has 11 players from the Yukon’s silver medal team at the 2010 Arctic Games in Grande Prairie, Alta., and 10 players from the Whitehorse Female Mustangs.
“We can’t control what the other teams look like, but we feel we have a very strong team this year,” said head coach Louis Bouchard. “They are two years older and the tournament is a year younger. It was under-20 in 2010 and now it’s an under-19 tournament. That being said, Alberta has very strong hockey programs and we can’t take them lightly.
“The two (other) territories – we can never disregard them,” he added. “They have, in the past, had very good hockey programs.”
The team also contains 13 players from Yukon’s team at the Canada Winter Games a year ago in Halifax. In total, eight of the team’s players represented the Yukon at both Games, including Tamara Greek, Ashtyn Sandulak, Linsey Eby, Adrianne Dewhurst, Sierra Oakley, Savannah van Vliet, goalie Jocelyn Wynnyk and Dana van Vliet, the captain of the team in Halifax.
Wynnyk currently plays in net for the Prince George Cougars in B.C., a AAA midget team.
Like in past years, the female team features a cross-section of Yukon communities, with players from Haines Junction (both van Vliets), Faro (Pitts and Tshayla Nothstein), Teslin (Dewhurst) and Marsh Lake (Wynnyk).
Assistant coaches for the team are Natasha Dunmall and Sue Roy.
Too young to have competed at either of the last two major Games, the Yukon’s entire bantam male team is made-up of first-times. But with every player a Mustang, the team is lacking neither game-play nor chemistry.
“The makeup is mostly the Mustangs guys, which is good in one sense because they know the systems we play,” said head coach Barry Blisner. “We don’t have to teach a lot of new guys different things so we save time in that way.
“We don’t have to worry about getting team chemistry going because it’s already there.”
The squad is comprised of players from the Bantam A Mustangs with the exception of Bodhi Elias and Tyson Hope, who play for the Bantam B Mustangs.
A couple of weeks ago, the Bantam A Mustangs dominated the competition to win the Summerland Bantam Rep Winter Classic, a Tier 3 tournament in B.C. The team also reached the semifinal at the Kelowna Minor Hockey Tournament in December.
“We haven’t seen anybody from Alaska and Nunavut and N.W.T. and northern Alberta,” said Blisner. “It’s like most years. I imagine Alaska is going to be really strong, like most years, as will northern Alberta, but you can never tell who’s going to be the strong one.
“But based on how we’ve done this year down south, we should do fairly well and be in the hunt for the gold.”
Assisting Blisner behind the bench is coach Jamie Cairns.
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kole Comin F
Bodhi Elias F
Chance Goodman F
Alex Hanson F
Levi Johnson F
Karter Kazakoff F
Kadin Kormendy F
Malachi Lavallee F
Dylan McQuaig F
Jack Blisner D
Nick Dobush D
Tyson Hope F/D
Caleb Marsh D
Ben McClelland D
Marcus McLeod D
Josh Tetlichi G
Devon Troke G
Spencer Lessard (alter.)
Nick Light (alter.)
Adrianne Dewhurst LW
Linsey Eby C
Madison Logan C
Tshayla Nothstein C
Sierra Oakley LW
Ashtyn Sandulak RW
Chyanne Spenner RW
Dana van Vliet RW
Hannah Wood-Walker LW
Natalja Blanchard D
Tamara Greek D
Lynsey Keaton D
Emilie Nugent D
Jolene Pitts D
Savannah van Vliet D
Teneesha Merkel G
Jocelyn Wynnyk G
Jonnie-Lyn Kushniruk (alter.)
Hannah Turner (alter.)
Sadie Whitelaw (alter.)
Mike Arnold F
Wyatt Gale F
Tyson Glass F
Mike Hare F
Tyrell Hope F
Matt McCarthy F
Cole Morris F
Riley Pettitt F
Tyler Weins F
Craig Berube D
Graham Close D
Brad Koprowsky D
Brayden Kulych D
Isaac Moses D
Mike Skookum D
Nigel Sinclair-Eckert G
Patrick Soprovich G
Youje Blackburn (alter.)
Chase Hobbis (alter.)
Jarrett Malchow (alter.)
Sean Roberts (alter.)
Jamie Tetlichi (alter.)
Liam Webster (alter.)
Contact Tom Patrick at email@example.com