Neither of NWT’s teams left the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships in Ottawa last weekend with stellar win-loss records, but they could have been worse off if not for three Yukon players.
With the absence of BC teams - the common destination for Yukoners at the tournament - NWT’s female team picked up Whitehorse’s Teneesha Merkel, 17, and Brittinee Lafferty, 17, while the male team drafted the help of Dawson City’s Waylin Nagano to play in net.
Both teams went 1-4 at the tournament, with the girls picking up a 3-1win over Team Atlantic, comprised of players from Nova Scotia, PEI and Newfoundland.
“We were pretty even teams, it’s just that we got the goals and they didn’t,” said Lafferty. “They didn’t have enough girls individually, so they put a combined team from the East Coast.”
It didn’t take long for Yukon’s presence to be felt in the tournament. In the female team’s opener against Saskatchewan, NWT suffered an 11-1 blowout. However, Lafferty, although credited with the goal on the internet, got the assist on the loan goal, passing off her own rebound to teammate Stephanie Charlie.
“It was our first game playing as a team; we didn’t really practise together,” said Lafferty, who plays left wing. “I knew some of the other girls, but we never played together.
“They just had more players and a stronger team.”
Playing with a skeleton crew on defence, Merkel, who played in net for Yukon’s Arctic Winter Games female hockey team, helping the team win silver, had her work cut out for her. Leaving with a goals-against-average of 6.6 over five games, Merkel stopped 64 of 72 shots in a 5-0 loss to Team Ontario North.
“I think she played really well considering she was the only goalie and we only had four defencemen,” said Lafferty.
“It was so much fun. The coaches and the girls were really fun.
“I really enjoyed it.”
Unlike NWT’s female team, the male team had two goalies on the roster. However, Dawson’s Nagano got the start in each, leaving with a 7.0 goals against average in five games, taking a 4-2 win over Nova Scotia.
Although NWT’s other games mostly ended with lopsided losses, the male team did take a close 7-5 loss to Ontario South to start the tournament.
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