Grande Prairie, Alberta
Team Alaska is a favourite in the junior female hockey division at the Arctic Winter Games.
So when Team Yukon tied them to open the tournament in Grande Prairie, Alberta, Alaska was surprised.
That surprise turned to dismay when Alaska lost 4-3 to Yukon in the semifinal on Thursday.
And there was a moment of disbelief on the Yukon bench, as well.
“We were so shocked we didn’t even say anything for a moment – until we started screaming,” said Yukon junior female captain Chantelle Rivest. “This is my fourth Arctic Games and I’ve never beaten Alaska until this year, so that felt amazing.
“For the first-year girls to see that, I think that was helpful too.”
Twice tying the game after going down a goal in the first period, the game winner came off Rivest’s stick. With just under three minutes to play, Rivest pounced on teammate Angela Burke’s rebound.
Also scoring for Yukon were Tamara Greek and Sierra Oakley. Rivest scored her team’s first goal of the game.
“The whole team picked up – it wasn’t just a couple players here and there – the whole team picked up to bring intensity to that game.
“(Yukon goalie) Teneesha (Merkel) was a brick wall out there.”
However, knocking Alaska out of the gold medal round does not mean smooth sailing for the Yukon squad. Friday afternoon the team will be taking on undefeated Team Alberta North who won four of their five games by shutout, including a 4-0 win over NWT in the other semifinal.
Yukon knows the challenge that lies ahead of them, losing 5-0 to Alberta North on Tuesday.
Midget team lets momentum get away
A single goal can change the whole momentum of a game. Unfortunately for Yukon’s midget male team, an opposing goal can change it right back again.
“We started slow – our kids were nervous,” said Yukon midget head coach Jim Stephens. “They weren’t aggressive for the first 10 minutes at the start of the game.
“We got the momentum shift with the goal and then it shifted back.”
Unlike the junior female team, Yukon’s run for gold ended in the semifinals against Team Alaska, losing 4-2 on Thursday. Yukon’s midget team will now play Nunavut for the bronze on Friday.
“I told the kids it was a good effort,” said Stephens. “They didn’t leave any gas in the tank, so they can be proud of how they played.”
Alaska came out with a physical game, shutting down Yukon for the first 12 minutes of play until Bryden Cook broke into the American end on a breakaway. Dalton Edzerza knocked in Cook’s rebound to go up 1-0.
Yukon then controlled the flow of the game until five minutes into the second when Alaska’s Chancie Hanson scored to tie the game on a breakaway of his own. For most of the remainder, Alaska was in the driver’s seat.
However, Yukon did show signs of life after Alaska’s third goal, coming out with a physical presence, throwing body checks left, right and centre. A few shifts later, Yukon’s Trevor Hanna scored to make it 3-2, his shot redirected off an Alaska defenceman attempting to block.
“We put out a big line and they had a tremendous shift there,” said Stephens. “We said go hard and take the body and just go for the net and that really fired up our guys. And then when Trevor got that goal, that was huge.
“Unfortunately we had a bit of a breakdown on that fourth goal. Our defence was pressing, taking chances, and that’s what happens.”
Bantams ousted early
In a division where underdogs NWT and Nunavut can defeat favourites like Alberta North and Alaska for a trip to the finals, anything can happen.
Unfortunately, for the Yukon bantam boys team, winning was not something that happened for them.
The young team was the first in the division to be shown the door, going 0-4 and getting eliminated before the playoffs. But playing some of the best hockey of their lives in the tournament was an achievement nonetheless, said coach Kerry Pettitt.
“It was a real good experience for these guys; they played at a level of hockey that I don’t think they ever thought they would have played at,” said Pettitt. “They competed in two games very well and the competition we were up against was at least a AAA calibre and here we are a bantam B team and we competed in two games.”
Although the bantams were dealt a couple blowouts along the way, it was not all bad, losing 3-1 to Alaska on Tuesday and 6-4 to Nunavut, to end the Games.
“That was probably our best game,” said Pettitt, referring to the Alaska game. “It was end to end and our goalie just stood on his head – it was incredible.
“We were severely outshot every game, but (goalies Youji Blackburn and Mike Amerault) helped us get where we were.”
Yukon’s game against Alaska was tied for almost two periods, with Liam Webster putting the puck in to make it 1-1 at the end of the second after a scoreless first period. Alaska scored in the final minute of the third and then sealed the deal with an empty-netter in the final seconds.
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org