Whitehorse Daily Star

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FUTSAL FINALISTS – North 60 FC team with their trophies after winning the Final Cup Championship at the Whitehorse Futsal League (WFL) finals as well as the overall league championship. Top row: Left to right – Dan Yip, Craig Caldwell (Captain), Kade Bringsli, Gavin Howells, and Cody Reaume. Bottom row: Left to right – Sean Macdonald, Kyle Reil, Bo Hoefs, and Skylar Bryant. Missing members – Andrea Bacchetta and Marcelo Gortari.

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MVP ... MVP – Gavin Howells of North 60 FC was awarded MVP of the League and the Golden Boot (top scorer for the season). The glass trophies were made by Lumel Studios.

Yukon men’s futsal has active season with league and Nationals

The Yukon men’s futsal season was an active one. North 60 captured the regular season and playoff Whitehorse Futsal League (WFL) titles, and the Yukon Selects had the best-ever finish for a Yukon team at the Canadian Championships.

By Morris Prokop on May 6, 2022

The Yukon men’s futsal season was an active one. North 60 captured the regular season and playoff Whitehorse Futsal League (WFL) titles, and the Yukon Selects had the best-ever finish for a Yukon team at the Canadian Championships.

For the uninitiated, North 60 captain Craig Caldwell explained the differences between soccer and futsal.

“It’s really intense. The main difference is the ball is smaller and harder so you’re able to stop the ball kind of dead ... it’s very strategic in the way the teams set up and there’s a lot of different cycles that the teams do.”

In futsal, there are four players per side, plus a keeper.

In addition, futsal nets are smaller than soccer nets.

“The goalies really fill them up. You have to be really accurate with your shots ... either low as hard as you can ... or hit it high and hard,” related Caldwell.

Caldwell explained how his team took the regular season title.

“The league was very tight up until Christmas. I think there was only a couple points between us and the second-place team, Riverdale FC. Unfortunately, they lost one of their best players (Jesse Letoski) – he moved back down south. He was a top scorer up until that point. They kind of dropped off a little bit.

“We seemed to accelerate after Christmas cause a lot of my players hadn’t played together before. It gelled pretty quickly from the start but especially after Christmas because I kept the guys playing; we tried to train as well ... so once we got back after Christmas ... in general, we seemed to gel more and more as the season went along and we didn’t drop any points from Christmastime, so I think we ended up winning the league by 14 points.”

North 60 took the team title with 34 points (11 wins, two losses and a tie) in 14 games. Riverdale FC finished with 20 points (six wins, five losses and two ties) in 13 games. Idolos finished third with 16 points and Whitehorse United FC brought up the rear with eight points.

The playoffs were a different story.

“The playoff was actually a bit of a nail-biter,” recalled Caldwell.

“In the final, we were strugglin’ ... all the bad things – all the little bits I tried to work on through the season with the guys seemed to come about in the last game and we were actually two-nil down with three or four minutes left and we came back and we won 3-2 in the last couple of minutes and it was against the team that gave us a good run for our money for the league for most of the season.”

There were two playoff games with all four teams involved.

League MVP Gavin Howells of North 60 described the championship game from his point of view.

“We were losing for most of the final and then in the last three minutes we somehow scored three goals. Skylar Bryant just like – he went on fire and he got two goals and then the ball came to me at the back post due to a great pass and I was able to put it in for the winner.

“It was pretty crazy though. It was a nerve-wracking game, for sure. We played our best, but we just kept hitting posts. The other team was obviously playing like it was a final,” added Howells.

Caldwell offered his thoughts on MVP Howells.

“Gavin’s a great player. He’s also a very intelligent player, besides the skill, for his age, so that’s why he’s a standout player for us and he’s a standout player probably in the league. That’s why he got the MVP.

“He was outstanding all through the season.”

Howells said winning the MVP came as a surprise.

“I never expected it. I played my best in every game and obviously my team had a big part in that because my team were there for me all the time, making me look good. But obviously, it’s an honour, and I was really grateful to be voted the MVP by the other members of the league.”

Howells also won the Golden Boot for top scorer in the league.

The young scoring phenom added “I would like to thank Craig for inviting me to join his team and his fantastic organization of the team throughout the season. He and the rest of the team really made my experience phenomenal.”

The Fair Play trophy was awarded to Andrew Mott of Riverdale FC.

Following the league championship, the 2022 Futsal Canadian Championship took place April 14-17 in Gatineau, Quebec.

Jake Hanson, Technical Director for the Yukon Soccer Association, said the Nationals went “really well” for the Yukon Selects team.

“This is the fourth Nationals in a row the Yukon has sent a team to. The first three, I believe there were eight teams in total – six provinces and two territories represented. This one was a little smaller. There was four provinces – Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and Manitoba and then two territories – Yukon and Nunavut. The previous three, we finished seventh of eight and then this one we finished fourth out of six. We beat Manitoba 4-2 in their group play, which positioned them into a bronze medal game.”

The bronze medal game was a close one.

“It was a good game,” recalled Hanson.

“We ended up losing to Calgary Callies from Alberta 1-0. Callies is considered one of the top men’s soccer clubs in Canada ... I think in futsal we’re a little closer to the standard because we play in a similar game to futsal for so many years, playing indoor soccer kind of forever here in Whitehorse, so I think the transition to futsal has been a pretty easy – a quicker transition for us maybe, than some of the more established outdoor soccer clubs in Canada.”

Howells described the Nationals from his perspective.

“This was my first time being a part of the team that we sent to the Futsal Canadian Championships. I was really happy to be asked to be a part of it. We had a strong team. Our first game was against Toronto, going against the defending champions and a very experienced futsal team. We started off a little slow, but then we kind of picked it up in the second half. We put up a reasonable performance against them, so I think we all gained a lot of confidence from that. We kind of knew what our strengths were. Obviously, getting together for the first time to play in a national tournament is kind of difficult.

“Going into the next game, we were able to ... beat Manitoba, so that was a great accomplishment for the Yukon and so we were already stoked about that how that came together.

“And then in the final game, it was a great battle. Unfortunately, it was just like a brief moment in there where Alberta was able to score. It was a one-nil loss against Alberta, so that’s something to be proud of but definitely we had the ability to win. We had the chances. In the first minute of the game, I had a shot on net and their goalie made an amazing save.”

According to Howells, the game before, Alberta put up a great fight against the eventual champions, Sporting Montreal.

Howells said it was a good experience overall.

“It was a great opportunity to show that in the Yukon futsal’s grown a lot and that we’re not just to be steamrolled by these big teams. We can actually put up a good fight and beat them and I think in the future, I’m excited to see what we can do.”

Speaking of the future, Howells is off to university next year.

“I’m looking to keep playing soccer and I think I’m going to be going to UVic (University of Victoria) ... try out for the team and see how that goes. But I’ll definitely be staying involved with soccer. If I don’t make the team the first year, then I’ll be staying involved with it, and hopefully trying out next year and making it then. Best case scenario is I make it first year, but we’ll see,” related Howells.

“I don’t know about the futsal situation there,” he added.

“I know that they don’t have an official league. That’s why they weren’t part of the national championships, so we’ll see. But I think there’s more opportunity in Victoria to play outdoor all year.”

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