With only four bantam teams competing in the Whitehorse Minor Hockey Association house league, the organizers for the Yukon Bantam Cup sought elsewhere for teams to participate in the territorial tournament – and teams responded in droves.
So much so that the territorial championship of eight teams turned into an international hockey competition hosted over the weekend in Whitehorse.
The gold-medal game fittingly was an international showdown between Whitehorse Minor team Northern Vision Development (NVD) and the Alaska Heat playing out of Tok.
“The whole point of this tournament is house league players from across the Yukon and we ended up with players from Teslin and Dawson that joined the Whitehorse teams and also Fort Nelson, Haines Junction and two Alaska teams,” first-year co-chair Annette King said Sunday morning following the gold-medal game at Takhini Arena.
Her fellow chair Marlaine Anderson-Lindsay voiced their appreciation during the medal ceremony for all the teams making the trip – some rather unexpectedly.
The team from Fort Nelson organized their team to make the trip a week before the tournament, Anderson-Lindsay said.
“Fort Nelson pulled together a team so we could have a proper tournament,” said Anderson-Lindsay, as without another team the tournament would have had seven teams and much more difficult to co-ordinate.
Anderson-Lindsay said the goal was to reach out to not only teams from across the territory, but other northern teams who don’t regularly have the chance to play in tournaments.
The quick jump to eight teams also came as a result of Haines Junction confirming enough players for a team to represent the community, after hosting the atom tournament earlier in the month.
The Huskies from Haines Junction had a great round-robin in the tournament winning two games and falling to Fort Nelson.
The peewee Whitehorse Mustangs U13 team qualified second out of the pool only dropping one game 3-2 against the Huskies. In a three-way tie in points, Fort Nelson just missed out on the semifinals based on the tiebreaker.
In the other division, the Alaska Heat dominated their way to first place, only allowing four goals in three games. House league team NVD placed second in the pool to set up the playoffs.
In the semifinals, NVD beat the undefeated Huskies to punch their ticket to the final and have a rematch against the Heat who defeated the Mustangs.
NVD head coach John Cooper said this was a great experience for his house league team that doesn’t travel and has spent the year competing against the same three teams in the bantam division.
“It was a great opportunity to show their talent and for them to put it all on the ice and they got to meet lots of nice friends,” he said.
Facing the strong Heat team in the final, NVD fell 6-1 but in a more competitive performance than their 11-3 loss in the round-robin.
“I thought the way the boys play and the attitudes that they have, they have so much energy that they just came together and put it all on the ice and even in the change room the energy was just positive,” Cooper said.
It was a tight first period between the two teams with the Heat getting on the board first seven minutes into the game.
NVD responded with six to go in the period on a goal by Huss Breithaupt, with the Heat responding less than a minute later to regain the lead.
The Heat started pulling away with two more in the second and then two more towards the end of the third to seal the victory. The Heat had six different goal scorers in the game.
The U13 Mustangs took home the bronze over Haines Junction in a game that showed the magnitude of sportsmanship throughout the tournament.
As the Mustangs are playing up an age level, they were a lot smaller than their Huskies opponents, and King said during the game a Mustangs player fell down during a battle for the puck and the Huskies player stopped to pick him
up off the ice, which shocked the Mustangs team and everyone watching.
“They’re feeling really competitive, but at the same time it was friendly. Everyone was getting along great,” King said.
The other participating teams in the tournament were P&M Recycling in the Whitehorse house league, the Schmidt Mining Corp. Female Mustangs team and the Juneau Capitals.
To accommodate the team from Juneau, King said they made the schedule adhere to the ferry schedule to allow the team to get there ahead of their first game late Friday evening.
But Friday morning they found out the ferry had been cancelled due to weather, but before giving up, the team made arrangements to charter a flight and made sure they arrived in time for the tournament.
The tournament did see a scary moment on its opening day Friday in the game between the Juneau Capitals and the Female Mustangs.
Anderson-Lindsay said there was an accidental hook in a battle for the puck by a Mustangs player and the Juneau player went down and wasn’t moving.
The St. John Ambulance respondents who were in attendance quickly went on the ice and also received assistance from lifeguards at the Games Centre to get him on a backboard.
At this point, Anderson-Lindsay said the player was responsive and talking, but was taken to hospital by EMS for assessment and tests to ensure everything was OK.
“The player’s safety and health was the top priority,” Anderson-Lindsay said.
And following the successful tests, the player was back out on the ice at 7:30 a.m. the next morning with his team.
The co-chairs said the tournament was a success thanks to all of the volunteers who kept the tournament running throughout the weekend.
“The feedback that we’ve received was the teams were very happy and the tournament was well-organized,” Anderson-Lindsay said. “The incredible support from the volunteers who really took what we proposed that we do and
ran with it and made it their own.”