Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Dustin Cook

THUNDER RUMBLE – Yukon player (front) Jayden Hardie races for the puck against Thunder player Brett Woolcott in a 9-3 loss Friday evening at Takhini Arena.

Bantam AWG development team faces first test

It was a learning experience for the Yukon Arctic Winter Games bantam development team in their International Showdown this weekend at Takhini Arena.

By Dustin Cook on December 4, 2017

It was a learning experience for the Yukon Arctic Winter Games bantam development team in their International Showdown this weekend at Takhini Arena.

The team hosted a three-team tournament for their first action of the season after the team was formed at the end of September by welcoming any bantam-aged player who wanted to play at a competitive level working towards the Games.

Welcoming the Semiahmoo Ravens from B.C. and Mat-Su Valley Thunder from Alaska, each team played four games in three days.

The Yukon squad lost all four games in the tournament, but took away more in their first tests, team head coach Carl Burgess said following the series Sunday evening.

“It’s hard to lose and sometimes it’s hard to lose 8-0 but they loved it. I saw an improvement in lots of things every game and in lots of areas they really stepped up and exceeded expectations and loved it and I’m really happy with that,” Burgess said.

They opened their tournament Friday morning against the Ravens falling 5-2 before taking on the Thunder Friday evening, who went undefeated in the tournament.

The strong Thunder side beat Yukon 9-3 after a closely-contested first period before they opened up their lead towards the end of the second.

Burgess said the second period was the toughest period for the team throughout the tournament and it is still a learning process in playing at this higher intensity and for a longer period of time than most of the players are used to.

“The big change is the intensity of the game and the length of the game,” he said.

“Maintaining competitive intensity in all three zones in the right way is a new part of the game different than house league and recreational hockey. That is a new approach and maintaining that will be number one.”

In the team’s one game on Saturday, Yukon fell to the Ravens 7-3 in a penalty-filled affair with Semiahmoo gathering 33 penalty minutes to 14 for Yukon.

The final game of the tournament was Sunday evening between the Thunder and Yukon with Mat-Su Valley taking the win 8-0.

The Alaskan team also beat the Ravens in both of their games: 6-2 and then 7-6 in overtime.

Following the game the two remaining teams shook hands on the ice and took photos while “Thunderstruck” by ACDC roared on the Takhini Arena speakers to celebrate the victors.

The visitors then gave a token of their appreciation to the hosts and confirmed they will definitely be back down the road. Burgess said the Mat-Su Valley Hockey Association has brought teams for tournaments in Whitehorse annually.

With three teams who normally wouldn’t play each other during the season, Burgess said the showdown was a great opportunity to play against different styles.

“It’s neat cause we have three different jurisdictions who would never meet up in the usual tournament cycle,” he said.

“Playing against teams from places our team has never heard of puts a little mystery in.”

The team will be back on the ice Friday, Burgess said, working towards the Games trials at the end of the month.

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