PRINCE GEORGE, B.C.
Yukon’s female hockey team went out with a good one.
No, they didn’t win, and they did finish last. But they also notched some significant milestones in a 6-3 loss to Northwest Territories at the Canada Winter Games on Thursday.
It was Yukon’s closest game in Prince George. It was also the most goals Yukon have ever scored in one game of female hockey at the Games. And it gave them the record for most goals in a Canada Games for a female hockey team from Yukon.
“Our goal coming in was to not get blown out,” said Yukon head coach Louis Bouchard. “In 2007 some of the scores were 23-0. The worst we got in 2011 was 19-0. So we were trying to stay away from those … The 18-0 (to Newfoundland on Wednesday) really hurt, but the girls rallied, came back and today they put on a good show.
“We tied them in the second, tied them in the third, but let them get away with three goals in the first … Those last two periods I felt we dominated. We weren’t able to – like (assistant coach) John (Grant) would say – put the biscuit in the basket, but we gave them a run.”
Yukon scored a total of six goals in Prince George, twice as many as at the 2007 Games and six times more than the 2011 Games.
The team wasn’t expecting wins, but did want to set a goals record for the territory, said Yukon captain Sierra Oakley on Monday.
“Our goal as a team is to get four goals throughout the entire tournament … because the highest Yukon has ever gotten is three,” she said. “We just want so badly to push it over, just so we can say we beat it.”
Oakley helped the team get there. She scored four of Yukon’s goals this week, including two against N.W.T. on Thursday.
She began with a goal in a 14-1 loss to Newfoundland on Saturday. Yukon then fell 14-0 to New Brunswick on Sunday and 7-2 to N.W.T. on Monday to finish the round robin in their pool.
In the placement rounds, Yukon lost 18-0 in a rematch with Newfoundland on Wednesday before Thursday’s rematch with N.W.T.
“The tournament as a whole was great,” said Bouchard. “The first game we were rattled, before we were on the ice they were rattled and nervous. They were making mental mistakes … It took them a while for them to realize they can play at this level.
“Yah, we got beat up pretty good against Newfoundland our second game.”
Oakley scored Yukon’s first two goals Thursday, on a short shot from the side of the net to make it 3-1 in the second, and then on a spin-and-fire move from in front to make it 4-2, assisted by defenceman Cayman Oestreich.
Yukon winger Maddie Nicholson scored late in the game, picking off an N.W.T. pass, tearing into a breakaway and putting it top-shelf with a wrister.
“We wanted to come, finish strong, and we knew Yukon wasn’t going to roll over today,” said N.W.T. head coach Kincaid. “We beat them before, so we knew we could do it again, but we had to play well and the girls stepped up, gave it their all and finished strong.”
Yukon lost twice to N.W.T., but they did accomplish something N.W.T. did not at the Games: they scored a goal on a province with Oakley’s on Newfoundland in the first game. N.W.T. did have a close one, though, losing 3-0 to P.E.I., with an empty-netter at the end, on Wednesday.
Oakley, Oestreich and defenceman Sophie Janke were named Yukon’s tournament MVPs by the team.
“It felt like I got MVP because I was noticed, but everyone has done good too,” said Oestreich. “They all should have got MVP.”
“It was a good experience, it was good to play in the higher levels that lots of girls don’t get to play in,” added the 14-year-old. “We got the opportunity from living in the Yukon. We were king of underdogs, but we still went out and tried our best.”
Yukon had the youngest team at the under-18 tournament with an average age of 15. Defenceman Zoe Leas is just 11, but got an assist in the first game against N.W.T.
Yukon winger Joy Morin is just 13 and eligible for the 2019 Games in Red Deer, Alta.
“They were really fun. I think it was a good experience for our team and I learned a lot,” said Morin. “The hockey was really good and fast and we didn’t do too well, but I was really proud of our team and what we did do.”
“It was really fun and I look forward to coming again.”
Three players on Yukon were playing in their second Canada Winter Games. Oakley, goalie Maya Oakley and Chyanne Spenner all played for Yukon at the 2011 Games in Halifax. Spenner is from Whitehorse and the Oakley sisters are from Haines Junction. The team also includes players from Dawson, Faro and even Dease Lake.
“I’d like to thank all the parents,” said Bouchard. “We know it’s not easy. It’s tough on community kids to compete at this level, it’s tough to get them into Whitehorse constantly. But for us coaches we need that, we need them coming in consistently so we can keep building on their skills.
“So a big thank you to those parents and volunteers that get them there.”
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