Yukon teams claimed titles in four of the six divisions at this year’s Yukon Native Hockey Tournament.
The 38th annual tournament, held at the Takhini Arena and Canada Games Centre, featured 42 teams from Yukon, the Northwest Territories and northern B.C.
The Inland Tlingit Warriors (B division), Kaska Warriors (Old Timers division), Jr. Inland Tlingit Warriors (Jamboree division) and Gwich’in Braves (Youth division) were the four Yukon champions.
The territory almost got its fifth on Sunday evening, but the EGT Nanooks from Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T. successfully defended their title in the A division by beating the CAFN Storm 8-3 in the final.
The Nanooks were led by forward Cody Pederson, who scored a hat trick and added two assists in a standout performance.
Coach Jackie Jacobson said it wasn’t any easier winning this year’s tournament.
In fact, it was tougher.
“We don’t take anyone lightly at this tournament,” he said, “because anything can happen.”
“When we played against Lower Post it was a tight game, and we had to battle back to beat them.”
The Nanooks beat the Lower Post Eagles 4-2 in the semi-final on Saturday night, the toughest game for the champions all weekend.
Jacobson’s team was fast and skilled, but also shined on defence.
They came up against a Storm team that had already scored 24 goals before the final.
“We had the best goalie in the A division and the best defensive core,” he said.
“The boys were professionals all weekend and focused on their games. I found that my team really stepped it up into high gear when we hit the third period.
“We brought this tournament to a new level of hockey.”
In the B division, which featured 11 teams, the Inland Tlingit Warriors beat the Lower Post Eagles 9-5 in the final.
Mike Arnold and captain Devaughn Davies led the way with six points each.
The Warriors played seven games over the weekend, including three on Sunday alone.
“I can’t tell you how sore I am,” Davies said, “but I’m really happy.”
“I still can’t believe we did it. I’m letting it sink in.”
The Warriors were clearly exhausted after their first game on Sunday morning.
After beating the Tahltan Bear Dogz, Davies returned to the locker room and found five of his teammates sleeping on their hockey bags.
“I just turned the light and the stereo off and let them sleep,” he said, laughing.
Champions of the C division last year, the Warriors were also propelled by the performance of their goaltender, Yougi Blackburn.
Davies estimates Blackburn made over 400 saves during the weekend.
“He was awesome for us,” he said.
“He made saves I can’t even explain.”
Most valuable players for the tournament were Ryan Gleason (A division), Dylan Apsassin (B division), Alexander Skinner (C division), Clarence Rouette (Old Timers division), Jonas Leas (Jamboree division) and Kaien Tait (Youth division).
This year, the tournament was dedicated to the memory of the late Sandi Gleason, a longtime volunteer and board member of the Yukon Indian Hockey Association.
Some teams, such as the Storm, wore purple ribbons on their jerseys in her honour.
Clothing items, wristbands and pucks also incorporated Gleason’s signature, a feather and her number 22.
Contact Myles Dolphin at