The Yukon’s first two hockey games of the Arctic Winter Games in Whitehorse didn’t result in wins for the hometown teams on Sunday.
In the two match-ups, which were both against the Northwest Territories, the junior females slipped into a 2-2 tie after three periods and the bantam males had a rough first period en route to a 7-4 loss.
The Yukon’s female squad wasted no time in finding the back of the N.W.T. net in its game at the Canada Games Centre. Just 14 seconds in, Linsey Eby knocked in a rebound from assistant captain Dana van Vliet for a 1-0 lead.
After a second-period goal from the N.W.T., the Yukon regained the lead on an unassisted effort from centre Tshayla Nothstein, stealing the puck in the N.W.T. end and burying a slapshot upstairs.
The lead was short-lived with N.W.T. forward Victoria Rankin scoring just over a minute later on Yukon goalie Teneesha Merkel.
The Yukon controlled most of the play and had about twice as many shots on net, but N.W.T. goalie Atikin Hehn was a brick wall between the pipes.
“We played awesome. We out-played them, out-shot them, we out-skated them, we just couldn’t beat their goalie,” said Louis Bouchard, the Yukon’s junior female head coach.
Also not helping the Yukon were its nine penalties to the N.W.T.’s five. But Bouchard doesn’t want to quiet his team too much.
“We’re going to have to play more disciplined hockey,” said Bouchard. “I want to keep that fire going, but we have to stay away from the stupid penalties – retaliation (penalties).
“We played half the game shorthanded so we never were able to put our systems into play.”
The Yukon’s bantam boys looked in control early on at Takhini Arena Sunday. On the team’s first shot on net, Levi Johnson scored on assistant captain Kole Comin’s pass from behind the net to give it a 1-0 lead. But five consecutive first-period goals from the N.W.T. created too big a spread for the Yukon to overcome.
“We have to play better, get more prepared,” said Yukon captain Dylan McQuaig. “We weren’t focused enough I guess.
“(The hometown crowd) brought out the adrenaline and we lost our focus.”
“They were very, very excited,” said Jamies Cairns, co-head coach. “None of them had played in an environment like this before, in front of a hometown crowd. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. We’re very proud of how they battled back and made it a hockey game and didn’t roll over for them.
“They played hard at the end and it was a very competitive game.”
With things at their worst, trailing 7-2 in the third, Yukon winger Bohdi Elias breathed new life into the team with a pair of goals, just 32 seconds apart, with just under five minutes to play. Johnson assisted both goals.
The second period was the Yukon’s best, at least, in terms of the scoreboard. The Yukon scored the only goal, coming off the stick of McQuaig, assisted by Chance Goodman and Malachi Lavallee, on the power play.
‘We made a few game adjustments and I think that showed in the second period,” said Cairns. “We were shorthanded for the majority of the third period.”
Bantam goalie Josh Tetlichi was named MVP for his team while Tamara Greek, who plays defence, was named MVP for female squad.
“He (Tetlichi) played really good and kept us in there,” said McQuaig. “He was probably the best player out there.”
Bouchard said Greek played an “awesome” game.
“Especially when we play shorthanded, we call on her a lot,” she said. “She came through – kept the intensity up. She was one of our strongest elements out there.”
Both teams played Alaska on Monday morning and are playing Nunavut in the afternoon and evening. The bantams play at 4:15 p.m. at the Takhini Arena and the females at 7 p.m. at the Canada Games Centre.
“We need to build on the second and third periods of today’s game,” said Cairns. “(We need to) keep it simple, get the pucks to the net, get the pucks deep.
“The nerves are going to go away now and I think it showed in the (N.W.T.) game. We won the second period – they didn’t score in the second period. In the third period, we kind of got trapped with the penalty killing situation.”
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