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Yukon teams in four finals at native hockey tourney

The Inland Tlingit Warriors' first trip to the Yukon Native Hockey Tournament was a profitable one. The Teslin team took home the jamboree title with a 6-4 win over Old Crow's Gwichin Spitfires.

The Inland Tlingit Warriors’ first trip to the Yukon Native Hockey Tournament was a profitable one.

The Teslin team took home the jamboree title with a 6-4 win over Old Crow’s Gwichin Spitfires in the final at the 35th annual tournament at the Takhini Arena in Whitehorse on Sunday.

Not only was the game the only final in the tournament with two Yukon teams vying for the top spot, it was arguably the most exciting with both teams staging comebacks over the three periods.

“We lost to them earlier and had to come through the back door (to get to the final) and I think it worked well for us,” said Warriors coach Dwayne Davies. “We had a game this morning and it got all the boys going. We knew what we had to do today, the boys did it, and it paid off.”

The Warriors carried a comfortable 3-1 lead into the third period, but holding it proved difficult. Three straight Spit Fire goals quickly changed the course of the game.

“We didn’t know what was happening,” said Warriors captain DeVaughn Davies. “We thought we were going to win and they came out and scored. But we grabbed the puck and started scoring again.

“We got our momentum back and just took it to them.”

“These kids played their hearts out,” said Spitfires coach Darius Elias. “Everyone in Old Crow (contributed with) bake sales, selling tickets, donating money, so these kids can have a chance.

“To do what they did is unbelievable ... We got a silver medal and I am so proud of them.”

Down 4-3 with less than seven minutes left in the third, Warriors’ Tyrell Hope tied the game on a goal assisted by Jamie Tetlichi.

Thirty seconds later, Tetlichi put a backhand on the net, the rebound knocked in by Mike Arnold. Hope, who had three goals and two assists in the final, scored the final goal.

“I thought we had a good game, we played like a team, kept our composure, we never yelled at each other, we moved the puck well, we talked - all that came in to work,” said DeVaughn.

Also scoring for the Warriors were DeVaughn and Tyler Charlie. Putting the Spitfires on the board were Daveena Mcleod, Delaney Mole, Mitchell Jacobson and tournament MVP Mike Hare.

The Spitfires finished second in the jamboree division last year as well. The core of the team won the youth division three straight years between 2008 and 2010.

“These kids have been playing together since they were 10,” said Elias. “Mark my words, the Spitfires will be winning this tournament in the A and B division.”

B.C.‘s Iskut Wolverines took third in the jamboree division after losing to the Warriors in the semifinal.

“They mostly picked out the team themselves and I just packed them up and went from there,” added Dwayne Davies of his team. “It ended up snowballing and we ended up here.”


Nannock Warriors ‘slashed’ in final

An empty-netter with 13.2 seconds left sealed the deal for Fort Nelson’s Deer River Slashers in the A division final of the Yukon Native Hockey Tournament at Takhini Arena on Sunday.

With the empty-net goal, the Slashers defeated the Whitehorse Nannock Warriors 5-2 for their first A division title.

The Slashers won the B division in 2010, but were knocked out of the A division last year in just two games.

“We have the same core group of guys and we won our rec league back home and we’re just growing as a team, getting stronger,” said Slashers captain Curtis Dickie. “We’re a pretty young team so I don’t think this will be our last (A division win).”

The Warriors, who have been playing at the tournament for decades starting as the Dease Lake Gold Stars, haven’t won the A division since 2008.

“I’m really proud of our guys. We knew the talent level of that team and they’re really good,” said Nannock coach Randy Merkel. “Out goaltender (Brian Powers) gave us every chance in the world to win. We had a one-goal game right through the third ... and we battled like Warriors - true Nannock Warriors.”

The Warriors twice tied the game at 1-1 and 2-2 before the Slashers made it 3-2 late in the second. It remained a one-goal game for most of the third period until Deer River’s Robbie Sidhu scored his third straight to make it 4-2 with 3:58 left in regulation.

Hurting the Warriors’ chances at success was the loss of two key players before the final, including captain Derek Johnstone, out with an eye injury from a high stick on Friday.

“We had another key forward go down with food poisoning,” said Merkel. “The guys wanted to be here and we had the team to win. The (loss of the) captain was the difference.”

“They did well. By the look of things we could have had a couple more players to help out against some of the younger teams,” said Johnstone. “But the team played well and it probably could have gone either way.”

Scoring for Nannock were Robin Gilbert and Bryden Cook. Donovan Nicholas, James Edzerza and Barry Blisner each had an assist.

Haines Junction’s Champagne/Aishihik Storm placed third, losing to the Warriors in the semifinal.


Whitehorse Arrows make four in a row

The Whitehorse Arrows hit the bull’s eye for the fourth consecutive time in the old timers division final at the Kilrich/Northerm Yukon Native Hockey Tournament.

The Arrows maintained possession of the title with a 9-2 win over the Fort St. John Blueberry Ole Weekend Warriors at the Takhini Arena on Sunday.

“The Arrows have a bit of a thing going on here,” said Arrows captain Randy Merkel. “It won’t be long before other teams are building their teams stronger to come back and take it away from us.

“All good things come to an end but right now we’re enjoying it.”

The Whitehorse team, which went undefeated in the tournament, dates back a lot farther than the last four years. The core members of the team were playing together long before they became “old timers.”

“This is the original Arrows team,” said Merkel. “About 25, 30 years ago we started the Arrows in the senior hockey league. Of course it went away and all that - I’m not sure for how many years - but most of the guys on that team are here today.”

The Arrows didn’t waste time breaking the game open, scoring five unanswered goals in the first period.

Arrows’ Adam Green scored two goals and had an assist while teammate Darryl Sturko had one goal and two assists. Bill Bohmer had two goals and Ken Anderson and Jeff Jensen both produced one goal and one assist. Peter Johnston and Rick Gingell both scored one goal. Ron Cook had two assists.

“We came out with all guns firing, all three lines going hard, the defence was moving the puck and everyone was passing, hitting the tape,” said Merkel. “It was 5-0 by the end of the first and we set the tone for the whole game there.

“They had a short bench and already played today,” he added.

Finding the back of the Arrows’ net were Dwayne Testawich and Stephen Kristoffy, both assisted by Morris Paquette.

Though the final was a blowout, the two teams’ first encounter was much closer. In the second round, the Arrows beat the Blueberry squad 5-4 in overtime after coming back from down 4-2.

“We’re all friends, we’re all pals, and we have a great dressing room,” said Merkel. “The cohesion you have in the dressing room leads to winning. It’s a big ingredient to winning and it’s one of the things the Arrows have.”

Dawson City’s Han Timberwolves took third after an 8-6 semifinal loss to the Blueberry Warriors.


Flames burn through Dawson

After four years of trying, the Fort McPherson Gwich’in Flames captured the youth division at the Yukon Native Hockey Tournament.

The Flames ignited to shut out the Dawson Wolf Pack 5-0 in Sunday’s final - the only final in the tournament played at the Canada Games Centre.

“This is my fourth year coming down here. The first year we lost in the semifinals, the last two years we weren’t even close,” said Flames coach Cliff Gregory. “This year we picked up a number of players. I didn’t know how the team would gel, but they have played really cohesively as a team. They have gotten stronger and stronger. This game wasn’t that close - our boys are just playing really well together.”

The Wolf Pack, which also lost in the 2010 final, had a closer 5-3 loss to the Flames in the second round of the tournament. The Flames’ goalie, Tynan Hope, was hotter between the pipes in the final, said Wolf Pack coach Mike Fraser.

“I think their goaltender (made the difference). I think he was the first star of the game,” said Fraser. “Every time we managed to get a good opportunity in there, he was shutting the door. He played an excellent game.”

Not helping Dawson was their short bench, with just three spare players. And that’s after picking up three Outside players.

“One of them was a young girl (Tiyone Peters) from Ross River who wasn’t on a team,” said Fraser. “Two players we picked up, Jordan Jarvis and Jonas Leas, are both playing AAA hockey down in Vancouver. If you only pick up two players and you have a short bench, that helps.

“Some of the Dawson players really picked up (their game) playing with that calibre of players,” said Fraser. “Brandon Kormendy got a hat trick this morning. Mikaila Blanchard played an excellent tournament. John Kolpin was playing defence - he’s not normally a defenceman (but he) picked it up. Young John Dagostin played a great tournament, young Sam Taylor on defence too.”

Leading the way for the Flames was captain Joseph Voneltsi with three goals and an assist. Alfryd Itsi and Alex Skinner also scored.

Dawson advanced to the final with an 8-7 overtime win over Haines Junction’s Champagne Aishihik ‘Lil Storm, last year’s runner-up. Leas scored the game winner.

The ‘Lil Storm took third in the tournament.


Blueberry rolls over Hogs in B final

For the second year in a row, the Inuvik Ice Hogs were unable to capitalize in the division B final.

Instead, Fort St. John’s Blueberry Weekend Warriors won the division, defeating Inuvik 4-2 in the final at the Yukon Native Hockey Tournament at Takhini Arena on Sunday.

“I think it was heart - the amount we wanted it,” said Warriors captain Justin Paul. “We lost to this team earlier. We were up on them and they came back.

“Everyone came in positive and gave 110 per cent.”

The Blueberry Warriors arrived in the final through the bottom half of the draw after losing to the Ice Hogs 4-3 in the second round. In the Warriors’ only loss of the tournament, the Ice Hogs came back from down 3-1 to win.

The Hogs began a second comeback in the final after falling behind 4-0. Hogs forward Kirk Sangris scored late in the second and midway through the third to make it 4-2.

Slow starts were a problem for Inuvik throughout the tournament, said Sangris.

“In the first 40 minutes, they wanted the puck more and they showed it. After the intermission we came back and said, ‘What’s going on? We came from behind before, so we can do it again.’

“Too bad there wasn’t a fourth period - we would have caught up.”

In the final, Paul had two goals and an assist while teammates Dylan Apsassin and Caycee Littlechild both had a goal and assist.

“Next year we’ll probably be back for the A (division),” added Paul.

The Ice Hogs finished second last year under the name High Speed Auto.

The Selkirk Bears from Pelly Crossing were pushed into third with a 7-1 semifinal loss to the Blueberry Warriors.

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