Leads were fleeting for Yukon’s midget male hockey team at the Arctic Winter Games last week.
In their last three games Yukon had leads slip away. The third time through, however, they didn’t let the evaporated lead keep them from a win.
Yukon let a three-goal advantage slip away but held on for the bronze in a 5-4 win over Team Nunavut on Friday.
“We’re having a hard time holding a lead,” said Yukon head coach John Grant. “We managed to hang on. It was a good game. It was pretty even, good goaltending, some nice plays, big hits. Everything the fans like to see.
“We let them back in and had to pick it up again.”
Yukon - the defending gold medal team - went up 3-0 midway through the second before three Nunavut goals leveled the score.
Yukon also let a one-goal lead slip into an 8-6 loss in the semifinal and a four-goal lead slip to a 6-6 tie to end the round-robin. Both games were against Alaska, who went on to take gold in a 5-4 win over N.W.T.
“You wonder how they’re going to respond after losing that heartbreaker yesterday, but, no, they came out ready to play,” said Grant. “They’re happy. We got a medal.”
Wingers Jarrett Malchow and Wyatt Gale, and centre Riley Pettitt, and each had a goal and assist against Nunavut, with Gale whacking in the game-winner under a minute into the third period. Yukon goalie Brett Skookum made 33 saves in the game.
Gale and Pettitt were first and second in the tournament for points. Gale amassed eight goals and seven assists and Pettitt racked up five goals and nine assists.
“It’s always an honour to represent the Yukon, so it’s nice to be able to win,” said Yukon winger Alex Hanson, who had two second-period goals in the bronze game. “It’s not the colour we were hoping for, but it’s still something to bring back to the Yukon.”
Yukon defeated Nunavut 6-1 during the round-robin portion of the tournament.
Nunavut evidently got stronger as the tournament progressed. “They sure did,” said Hanson. “They’ve made a lot of improvements and their game has gotten a lot closer in the tournament.”
“The whole experience has been a lot of fun,” added Hanson. “On the ice, off the ice, it’s been great.”
Yukon slow out of the gate in female bronze game
Yukon’s female hockey team really started to skate in the third period, but by then it was too late.
The team was unable to overcome a 4-0 situation, dropping the bronze medal game 4-2 to Team N.W.T. on Friday.
“We’re proud of how our team came together,” said Yukon head coach Louis Bouchard. “They didn’t show up for all of our last game. They only showed up for half of a period. If they played the whole game like they did the last 12 minutes, we obviously would have won that one game.”
Yukon left wing Sierra Oakley of Haines Junction scored both goals in her team’s attempted comeback. Oakley won a footrace against an N.W.T. defender down ice to score on a wrist shot with 11:10 left in regulation.
She then scored three minutes later on a shot from the blue line with teammate Maddie Nicholson ducking her head out of the way just in time so the puck could find the top corner of the net. Nicholson and defenceman Tamara Greek picked up an assist on the play.
Oakley and Greek led the team with four points in the tournament. Oakley had three goals and an assist and Greek had two of each.
“Sierra has always been a strong, strong skater,” said Bouchard. “She was part of the original (Whitehorse) Avalanche (rep) team when she was 10 or 11 years old.
“She’s a fierce competitor; she hates to lose. When she was 12 years old she scored the goal for the silver medal against Alaska (at the 2010 Arctic Games in Grande Prairie, Alta.)”
The Yukon team was sent to the bronze game in a 3-1 loss to Alberta North in the semifinal on Thursday. Winger Mykhaila McInroy scored for Yukon.
Yukon did not enter a team in the bantam division of the Games this year due to a conflict with the B.C. Provincial Hockey Championships.
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