For about five minutes, Yukon looked poised to pick up a bronze in junior female hockey at the 2016 Arctic Winter Games on Thursday.
But with a bench shortened by injury and a flu bug, the team wasn’t able to hold on to a one-goal lead in the bronze game at the satellite venue of Iqaluit, Nunavut.
“There’s a flu running around the dorm, so we had a bunch of sick players this morning, and a couple of injuries,” said Yukon head coach Louis Bouchard.
“We lost two of our top players (Chyanne Spenner and Cayman Oestreich) to the flu this morning, so it was a hard game for us. Then this morning, with injuries and everything, our bench was down to 11 skaters.”
Yukon came away with a fourth-place finish with a 2-1 loss to Team Alaska in the bronze medal game.
Yukon took a 1-0 lead early in the second period on a goal from Maddie Nicholson, assisted by Zoe Leas and Isabelle Oestreich. Alaska scored five minutes later and again with five minutes left in the third for the win.
“But we gave it everything we had,” said Bouchard. “The girls played awesome. Usually Alaska and Alberta North can dominate the smaller territories, but this time around it was a very tight competition … Any of those top four teams in the tournament could take it,” he added.
With the exception of games with last place’s Nunavut, the tournament was filled with close battles.
Following a sound 13-3 win over Nunavut to open the Games, Yukon lost 3-0 to N.W.T., lost 3-1 to Alberta North and tied Alaska 0-0 in the round robin.
In the semifinal Thursday morning Yukon lost 6-2 to N.W.T., who went on to take gold with a 5-1 win over Alberta North.
Ali Nordahl was in net for Yukon in the win over Nunavut. She was also between the pipes for the bronze game, making 26 saves.
“She had an awesome game,” said Bouchard.
Nicholson led the team in points in Iqaluit with seven goals, putting her sixth in the tournament. She posted a hat trick in the win over Nunavut.
“Her line-mates were feeding her well,” said Bouchard. “She got two deflection goals – one from Isabelle Oestreich and the other from Sophie Jenke.
“The goals went to Maddie, but the whole team was pushing hard behind her.”
Spenner, who missed both games on Thursday, was second on the team with one goal and five assists. She had a five-point game against Nunavut.
“Not having her up front today hurt our offence,” said Bouchard.
Isabelle Oestreich racked up five assists in the tournament while Leas and Joy Morin had two goals and two assists.
This week’s Arctics marked the second in a row Yukon took fourth in female hockey, last winning a medal at the 2012 Games in Whitehorse with a bronze.
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