Yukon North Of Ordinary

Sports archive for December 9, 2013

Mustangs showcase a win-win for hosts, visitors

For Whitehorse Mustangs players, it was simply a pleasure to play in front of the adoring home crowd.

By Marcel Vander Wier on December 9, 2013 at 2:37 pm

For Whitehorse Mustangs players, it was simply a pleasure to play in front of the adoring home crowd.

For the visiting teams, Hockey Day in Whitehorse was much, much more.

“I was hoping it was going to be the ultimate Canadian experience, and it was,” Alberni Valley Bantam Bulldogs head coach Mike Doucette told the Star after their fourth and final game against the Norcope Bantam A Mustangs Sunday.

“It was a no-brainer. It was unreal.”

The Whitehorse Minor Hockey Association hosted the event as a showcase and fund-raiser of its rep hockey program.

While the Bulldogs took three of four games in the weekend mini-series, the true rewards came off the ice.

Players were welcomed into the homes of local hockey families and found the time to take in a dog sledding experience, while their coaches combined a few free hours with a vacant neighbourhood rink to play a game of outdoor shinny.

“You could just feel the warm reception from everybody,” Doucette said. “The kids all had a great time at their billets’ place ... they took them in like family. So incredible.”

Bulldogs captain Ezra Paddock agreed with his coach’s sentiments.

“It was a great experience,” the 14-year-old said. “It was lots of fun. We got four good games out of it and it was close team battles.”

The Tier 2 Bulldogs handed the Mustangs losses of 3-1, 3-2 and 3-1, but the Whitehorse club did get the better of their B.C. rivals Saturday night with a 7-2 drubbing.

“We expected strong competition and we got it,” Doucette said. “We had to come to play. We’re a speed team and maybe we outskated them a bit in the first two games, but they’re a very disciplined system team and I think in game three, we fell victim to their system. Their breakout was awesome.”

Mackenzie Benn-Wipp led the way for the Mustangs with three goals over the weekend, while captain Mathew Cooper added a pair.

“It’s really nice to play in front of the home crowd,” said Cooper, 14. “All of the boys were excited to play here. I thought the games were pretty evenly matched, but they just got a couple of goals and had a little bit higher tempo that we couldn’t match sometimes.”

Cooper’s family hosted Bulldog players Wyatt Selva, Brennan Locke and goalie Jaysen MacLean.

“It was a cool experience, and fun to have them all stay over at my house,” Cooper said.

The Bulldogs weren’t the only Outside team in town. The Peewee B Mustangs also welcomed the Juneau Capitals for a four-game series in which they finished 0-4.

Scores were 7-0, 6-3, 5-3 and 3-1 in favour of the Alaskans. Aidan Adel led the way for the local club, scoring two goals.

Mustangs coach Ryan Hennings admitted the Capitals were a handful for a variety of reasons.

“They were a good team – all basically second-year players – where ours are all first year,” Hennings explained.

“There was a big size difference as well. We were in tough, but that doesn’t make any difference. Those kids have got to come out there and work. The biggest thing I think they learned was they have to come out every game ready to play and do what it takes to win.”

Hennings said he was proud of the way his club continued to battle in the later stages of the four-game series, after getting “beat pretty bad” in the first two matches.

Hosting an exhibition series proved to be a learning experience for the Peewee B squad.

“They understand a little bit more of what it means to be a hockey player at this level,” Hennings said. “I think it means a lot to them. It makes them understand their responsibility, both on and off the ice.”

Mustangs captain Brandon Petelski said having the rare hometown advantage was special.

“It’s really great, because everybody’s cheering you on and the team is all riled up and having a lot of fun,” he said Sunday.

As for the four straight losses, “there were times when we weren’t playing 60 minutes of hockey,” the youngster added.

“Mostly we were pretty good, but we just have to pick it up. I think we could beat them. We just have to get our legs moving more.”

Capitals head coach Arnold Liebelt said for the Americans, it was enjoyable simply to face off with an actual team, let alone sweep the series.

“This is our second year and coming to Whitehorse is always a real positive experience,” Liebelt said. “The kids and the families have a great time and it’s a little vacation for us.

“What was really nice to see for us was some team chemistry kicking in,” he said.

“The Whitehorse team was great to do battle with. They really gave our kids a challenge. We don’t play any other teams – it’s really hard – until we go to the state tournament up in Anchorage. We don’t play other teams so it’s really hard to get experience with battling for the puck in the corners and having a fair amount of physical contact because these guys don’t want to hit or rub out their friends. That’s the most valuable part of coming up here, is learning how to be more physical.”

The Hockey Day in Whitehorse and Mustangs Night festivities featured 22 scheduled games over the weekend and included all Mustangs teams – from atom to midget.

The Female Mustangs played both the Peewee A Mustangs (4-1 loss) and a women’s rec league all-star team (7-4 loss), while the KBL Midget Mustangs also played a regular rec league game versus ORC (3-2 loss).

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