Whitehorse Daily Star

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LOOKING AHEAD – Dawson player Arnica Bulmer charges forward during quarter-final action against Nova Scotia. Photo by SARAH LEWIS

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CENTRE ICE – The Yukon boy’s team in action against Manitoba in the division final at the Canadian Tire Centre.

Peewee teams rack up hardware in Ottawa

Two peewee teams from the Yukon made the trip to the nation’s capital to represent the territory

By Dustin Cook on January 4, 2018

Two peewee teams from the Yukon made the trip to the nation’s capital to represent the territory – proving that hockey is strong in the North and taking home some trophies in the process.

Competing at the Bell Capital Cup in the Canada 150 division, the two teams were chosen to represent the Yukon based on a video submission.

The Hockey on the Hill competition was held to pick the 16 house league teams in each division to represent each geographic region.

On the girl’s side, coach Pat Tobler put together the team specifically for the tournament with peewee-aged girls from across the territory. Known as the Yukon North Stars, it is hard to believe they just started playing together based on their performance in Ottawa.

The team finished second in their round-robin pool with a 2-1 record. They opened the tournament against Quebec winning 8-0 followed by an 8-1 victory over Saskatchewan.

The opening game against Quebec was supposed to be on the outdoor rink in front of Parliament Hill, but all outdoor games were moved indoors due to the frigid weather throughout the tournament.

But that didn’t stop both the girl’s and boy’s teams from skating on the rink during public skate hours, allowing the families of the players to lace up as well.

In their final round-robin game, the North Stars took on a team from Alberta losing 5-0.

Moving on to the quarter-finals, the team faced off against an undefeated team from Nova Scotia and won 5-2 to set up a semifinal rematch with Alberta.

“It went just excellent,” Tobler said of the tournament for the new team. “The team performed really well, sort of beyond our expectations.”

The team gave it their all against Alberta but fell again 4-1 to the eventual tournament champions.

The tournament didn’t have a bronze medal game, so they finished tied for third place.

“To come in third from 16 teams, given this team has never played together as a full team before,” Tobler said. “I think they were really happy and really excited about how they did. They were a bit disappointed they didn’t make the finals, but overall they came back really proud of their achievements.”

And with many trophies to show for their efforts. The team excelled in the division’s skills competition as well with three different groups winning events.

The team took the agility challenge, goaltender Alix Walchuk won the breakaway challenge for the goalies and three players also won the power play competition, scoring the most goals in the allotted time.

The boy’s team representing the Yukon was Team PNW from the Whitehorse Minor Hockey Association coached by Mike Nemeth. They too excelled in the tournament beating all three teams in the round robin.

They beat Quebec 7-0, the Ottawa East Barracudas 8-0 and then Northern Ontario 4-1 in their final round-robin game.

Even though the house leage teams varied in experience, Nemeth said the success the territory had at the event shows the talent level in the Yukon and Whitehorse Minor.

“It’s definitely a sign that we’re doing something right here in the North teaching our kids to play hockey,” he said. “We went in with zero expectations. The Yukon team from the small hockey market or region – and maybe that was one of the keys to our success.”

The team’s success continued in the playoffs en route to the final game against Manitoba – a team that didn’t allow a single goal against all tournament.

“Probably the most exciting experience for the kids in all this is having made it to the finals, we got to play on the Canadian Tire ice where the Ottawa Senators play,” Nemeth said. “It was just amazing. It still feels like a dream, two days later I still can’t believe we did that. We were there.”

In that game on the big ice, the Yukon fell 6-0 to the strong Manitoba team to take home the silver.

Both teams also got to take in an Ottawa Senators game during their trip over the holiday season as well as a tour of the Parliament Building from Yukon member of Parliament Larry Bagnell.

Yukon player Ken Stalder led the tournament in scoring with 16 points in six games. Goalie Kieran Mooney recorded three shutouts and both excelled in the boy’s skills competition as well.

Mooney took top goalie honours in the breakaway competition and Stalder and Bryn Studney-Amos got awards in the skater portion of the event.

After the tournament, the teams headed back home tired from the whirlwind weekend – but this time with a little extra weight.

“Both teams did Yukon proud,” Tobler said. “The plane was full of trophies on the way back.”

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