The Yukon First Nations Hockey Association held the 42nd annual Yukon Native Hockey Tournament in Whitehorse from March 22 to 24, with games happening at the Canada Games Centre and Takhini Arena.
A total of 43 teams in six divisions took to the ice with prizes for winning teams ranging from $6,000 in the ‘A’ division to $1,300 in the ‘C’ division.
In the final game of the weekend, the Champagne-Aishihik Storm took on LJ’s Sabres in the ‘A’ division final.
The Storm opened up the tournament with a 4-3 win against the Selkirk Bears and an 11-3 win against the K&D Outlaws on March 22.
The Sabres also started off with a win, beating Reign Lake 5-3 and setting up a matchup between the two teams for a spot in the final.
In the game on March 23, the Storm beat the Sabres 6-3.
That win booked the Storm a place in the final and pushed the Sabres into the other half of the bracket, where the Sabres beat the Bears 2-1 to setup the final.
Things started fast for the Sabres in the final when Clay Plume scored first with 14:16 remaining on the clock to take the lead. Assists on the goal went to Dean Dion and Alex Hanson.
After a back and forth first period, the Sabres broke through again late to take a two-goal lead when Jeremy Weasel-Moccasin scored with 2:25 to play, assisted by Brett Witala.
The Sabres scored again in the second period to take a three-goal lead. This time Witala got the goal with assists going to Weasel-Moccasin and Hanson.
Later in the second the Storm got one back. Johnny Elias scored with 4:38 remaining, assisted by Neil Chambers and Evan Campbell, to pull the Storm back within two goals.
In the third period, an interference call on Storm defenceman Simon Nugent sent the Sabres to the power play and Witala made them pay, stretching the lead back to three with an unassisted goal at 14:15.
Nugent pulled one back for the Storm just minutes later, scoring at 11:44 with an assist from Elias to push the score to 4-2.
An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Flynn Perry of the Sabres gave the Storm a power play chance to cut into the lead further. The Storm did just that, taking just 33 seconds to score when Chambers potted one with assists from Elias and Nugent.
A penalty with just 5:10 in regulation to the Storm’s Clayton Thomas gave the Sabres the opening they needed to put the game out of reach. Plume scored his second of the game at 4:21 assisted by Dion to make the score 5-3.
The Storm called a late timeout and pulled the goalie to try to spark a comeback, but an empty-net goal from Weasel-Moccasin at 1:52 of the third put the game out of reach.
Final score was 6-3 in favour of the Sabres.
Most Valuable Player in the ‘A’ division was given to the Storm’s Chambers and teammate Cody Peterson was the top scorer.
In the ‘B’ division, the Wolf Pack was a buzz saw through the division. The team won all of its games, including an 8-2 victory against the Tahltan Bear Dogz in the final. Third spot went to the Deline Braves who lost 3-1 to the Bear Dogz in the semifinal.
MVP in the ‘B’ division was Dylan Tanner of the Bear Dogz. Top scorer was Donavin Tanner, also with the Bear Dogz.
The 13-team ‘C’ division was the largest of the tournament and also featured an undefeated winner. The Kaska Warriors rolled through the Champagne-Aishihik Thunderstorm, Nisutlin Knights, Iskut Wolverines and LSCFN Nighthawks to reach the finals against the Saw-Tooth Predators, who went on a five-game winning streak after losing their opener to reach the finals.
In the finals, the Warriors doubled up on the Predators 6-3 for the tournament win. MVP went to Max Kotokak of the Warriors and Tristan Murry of the Predators was the top scorer.
The Nationals were this year’s winner in the Old Timers division after beating the Tombstone Avalanche in the final. The Nationals opened with a 4-3 loss to the CAFN Bruins and had to rattle off victories against the Tahltan Silver Tips and the Bruins to reach the final. Nationals player Mike Snow was the MVP and teammate Jamie Cairns was the top scorer.
In the jamboree division, the Energy North Predators beat the North Yukon Eagles 3-1 in the final. The Predators had previously beaten the Eagles 7-3 earlier in the bracket. The MVP was Jared Kotchea of the Predators and the top scorer was Kaien Tait of the Tahltan Selects.
With other Champagne-Aishihik teams seemingly snakebit this tournament, the Champagne-Aishihik Lil Storm bucked the trend when they won the youth division.
The team went undefeated, beating the Carmacks Lil Wild Ones, North Yukon Eagles, Junior Tahltan Selects, Fort Nelson Bears and the Selects again to win the division. Gavin McKenna of the Lil Storm was the MVP and teammate Ethan Candow was the top scorer.
Organizers also handed out a number of other awards at the conclusion of the tournament. The Most Sportsmanlike Team Award went to the Nisutlin Knights — the first all-women team in the tournament — and the Most Inspirational Player Award went to Richard Nagano of the Tombstone Avalanche. The Saw-Tooth Predators were the most improved team and the Jean Gleason Memorial “Hockey” Mom Award was presented to Trish George-Smith. Rounding out the adult awards was the Leadership Award, which was presented to Brian Quock.
At the youth and jamboree level, the Carmacks Lil Wild Ones won the Team Spirit Award and Zoe Leas of the North Yukon Eagles was given the Most Sportsmanlike Player Award.
Contact John Hopkins-Hill at email@example.com