Yukon teams won three of the six divisions at the Yukon Native Hockey Tournament in Whitehorse on Sunday, but none of those teams were from the capital city.
The Old Crow Gwich’in Braves won the youth division, Watson Lake’s Kaska Warriors topped the oldtimer division and the Teslin’s Inland Tlingit Warriors took first in the reintroduced C division at the 37th annual tournament held at Takhini Arena and the Canada Games Centre.
Though Whitehorse teams were shut out from gold medals, one came close. Very close.
Whitehorse’s Nannock Warriors dropped a three-goal lead in the third period en route to a 4-3 loss to Tuktoyaktuk’s EGT Nanooks/Northwind in the A division final.
“You never know what actually goes wrong,” said Warriors captain Derek Johnstone. “They have a good team, but they obviously didn’t come ready to play at the start and we took advantage of that. We knew they were going to get their wheels back, which they did.
“It’s not easy to swallow because we were that close.”
It’s not the first time this has happened. The last time EGT won the division was in 2009, coming back from down 2-0 against the Nannock Warriors in the final.
EGT placed second last year and the Warriors third.
“It’s good to take the title back,” said EGT captain Drew Rose. “The atmosphere is so good to play in and it was a good game. It was fun.
“We went into the dressing room, told the boys we knew how to skate, what to do, and put it in action and we did it.”
Johnstone opened the scoring in the second period with a breakaway. Max Kotakak scored at the end of the second on a two-on-one rush with help from Mickey Ipana and Jamie Edzerza. Bill McKay scored for Whitehorse just 10 seconds into the third before the wheels fell off.
“Basically our team has been together for 30 to 35 years,” said Johnstone. “It’s been getting harder as the years go on because we’re getting a little bit older, but we bring a few players from down south to fill out our lineup.”
Haines Junction’s CAFN Storm took third place with a 4-0 loss to the Warriors in the semifinal.
Tlingit Warriors down Weekend Warriors in C final
Teslin’s Inland Tlingit Warriors obviously held nothing back in the C division final.
The Tlingit Warriors produced the most lopsided final of the tournament with an 11-3 thumping of the Fort St. John’s Weekend Warriors.
“It’s unbelievable to win again. We lost last year (in the jamboree final), so it’s good to come back and win this year,” said Tlingit captain Devaughn Davies. “But I couldn’t have done it without the guys I have and the girls – the girls played awesome – and our goalie Youge Blackburn.”
The first period actually ended in a 2-2 tie before the Tlingit Warriors cracked it open in the second for an 8-3 lead.
“They came out hard in the first period and gave us a little scare there,” said Davies. “But we got our composure back and just played our game. Just worked hard and put a few quick goals in the net and pressed on from there.”
Tlingit centre Mike Arnold had three goals and seven assists, teammate Wyatt Noskey had six goals and two assists and Jamie Tetlichi had one goals and four assists.
Noskey was named the division’s MVP and Arnold was the top scorer. Blackburn got the best goalie nod.
The Ross River Renegades placed third in a 7-5 semifinal loss to the Weekend Warriors.
The weekend marked the first time in about 20 years a C division was included in the tournament, which saw 40 teams take to the ice.
Braves take youth division in shootout
The Old Crow Gwich’in Braves needed their bravery in the final minutes of the youth division final.
Locked at two apiece with the defending champion Whitehorse Wolverines, the game went to a shootout. Each team had to send in seven shooters apiece before the stalemate was broken.
Braves’ Jarod McCulloch scored the game-winner before goalie Cole Smith stopped the Wolverines’ seventh shooter, giving the Old Crow team a 3-2 win and the youth division title.
“I’ve been coaching these kids since they were 10 years old and I’m so proud of them,” said Braves coach Darius Elias. “They don’t play together (regularly) but they gelled. We lost against the Wolverines in Game 1 and had to come through the backdoor.
“These kids are going to grow up to be wonderful, productive members of society, I guarantee.
“I’m so proud of them because they dug down and won the gold medal.”
It was a bit of payback for the Braves, who lost to the Wolverines in the final last year.
The Braves won the division three straight times between 2008 and 2010. The Gwitch’in Gladiators from Old Crow won in 2011.
Also scoring for the Braves were Jeremy Keevik and Andrew Charlie, assisted by Dawson Elias and captain Johnny Elias, who was named the division’s MVP.
MaKenzie Benn-Wipp and Nakodan Greyeyes scored for the Wolverines.
McCulloch was named most sportsmanlike player and Smith was named best goalie for the division.
“He stood on his head today,” said Elias. “I knew when I picked him up he’d be a wonderful goalie. He won it for us. He made some key saves at key moments in the game.”
The Braves won the team spirit award after lending one of their goalies to their semifinal opponent, the Fort Nelson Flyers, who had lost their goalie to injury. The Flyers placed third with a loss to
Kaska Warriors repeat in oldtimer division
Watson Lake’s Kaska Warriors haven’t lost a game in the tournament in two years.
After the Warriors went undefeated last year, they pulled it off again, defeating the Whitehorse Arrows 6-3 in the oldtimer final. Before last year, the Arrows had won the division four straight times.
“Every year we get together and try to do this,” said Warriors player and coach Don Magun. “We all play in a league in Watson, we have an oldtimer league in Watson.
“As part of Kaska First Nation, I think we’ve been coming here over 30 years. You win some, lose some, and you win some. We’ll be back next year.”
The Warriors’ Travis Cunningham had three goals and an assist in the final and teammate Dean Flett had two goals and an assist. Watson Lake’s Lois Gardiner produced three assists and was named the division’s MVP and was its top scorer. Teammate Craig MacDonald was named best goalie.
Old Crow’s North Yukon Eagles took third with a 6-4 loss to the Arrows in the semifinal.
Tahltan Selects extinguish Spit Fires
The Tahltan Selects really turned the tables on the Gwich’in Spit Fires in the jamboree final.
After losing 5-1 to Old Crow’s Gwich’in Spit Fires in the second round, the Tahltan Selects of Dease Lake, B.C., defeated the Spit Fires 3-0 in the final to defend their title from last year.
“We were just fired up, ready to go,” said Selects Tyrell Miller of the final.
“The majority are always playing together, we just picked up a few out-of-towners from Whitehorse to help us out,” he added. “It’s the same team as last year.”
Teslin’s Junior Inland Tlingit Warriors came third after a 7-2 loss to the Selects.
Outlaws over Outlaws in B final
It was a battle of outlaws in the B division final.
N.W.T.‘s Aklavik K&D Outlaws defeated B.C.‘s Williams Lake Shuswap Outlaws 7-2 in the final. The Aklavik team won the division last year as well.
“They’re a good bunch of hockey players, they really keep going, they don’t give up,” said Aklavik general manager Billy Storr. “They keep skating and if you’re not skating you can’t score goals.”
B.C.‘s Lower Post Eagles came up short in a 6-5 loss to Shuswap to place third.
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