Trials for three sports in the upcoming Arctic Winter Games – midget hockey, snowshoe biathlon and ski biathlon – took place in Hay River from Dec. 12-14.
While the midget hockey trials went ahead as planned at the Rec Centre, the biathlon trials were forced to take shelter from the frigid temperatures outside.
“I had my fingers and my toes and my eyes crossed all looking for warm weather, but it didn’t work,” said Hay River’s Chuck Lirette, the head coach of the biathlon team.
Lirette explained the cut-off temperature for biathlon is -20 Celsius.
“We were a fair ways off being able to race outside,” he said.
However, on the morning of Dec. 13, the 20 biathletes from around the NWT demonstrated their proficiency on skis or snowshoes at the ski club.
“It wasn’t a race,” said Lirette, explaining the biathletes demonstrated their technique on such things as going uphill and downhill.
While they were doing that, they were dressed in full winter clothes, not racing gear.
“They weren’t going flat out,” added Lirette.
For the racing part of the biathlon trials, things moved indoors at Princess Alexandra School.
Lirette noted that, as soon as the dates for the trials were announced in October by Sport North, he reserved the school just in case.
“You just know when you see the dates of the trials are mid-December that there’s a chance that weather is going to become a factor,” he said.
In the school, the races involved running through the corridors and shooting on an air rifle range in the gym.
“Our preference would have been to be outside, but it allowed us to have a competition where we got the results and were able to observe the kids,” said Lirette. “You get an idea of their fitness levels, their shooting skills.”
At the conclusion of the biathlon trials, Hay River’s Elie Lepage and Nikolas Hawkins were selected for the juvenile male ski biathlon team, while Grayson Groenewegen was chosen as an alternate.
Hay River’s Hunter Groenewegen was selected for the juvenile male snowshoe biathlon team.
In all, 20 biathletes participated in the trials – 10 for ski biathlon and 10 for snowshoe biathlon. There came from seven different communities – Inuvik, Aklavik, Tsiigehtchic, Norman Wells, Yellowknife, Fort Smith and Hay River.
For the midget hockey trials, 41 players came from all over the NWT, including six from Hay River.
Two players from Hay River – Luke Pettipas and Kaden Beck – made the team, while two others were chose as alternates – Conner McKay-Ivanko and Gavyn Lamoureux.
“Everything went well,” organizer Pennie Pokiak said of the trials for the midget team.
“There were lots of people in the stands, because at this level it’s good, competitive hockey,” she added.
Pokiak noted there were five games played during the trials.
“The hockey got better as the games progressed,” she said.
Pokiak, the president of Hay River Minor Hockey, is on the board of Hockey NWT, and was the organization’s representative at the midget hockey trials.
Yellowknife had the most hopefuls at the midget hockey trials with 18 players, while there were five from Inuvik, four from Fort Smith, four from Tuktoyaktuk and one each from Aklavik, Fort Liard, Paulatuk and Ulukhaktok, plus the six from Hay River.
The 2020 Arctic Winter Games are set for mid-March in Whitehorse, Yukon.
Full team roster for ski biathlon and snowshoe biathlon:
Ski, junior female: Ruby Pigott, Yellowknife
Ski, juvenile female: Anais Aubrey-Smith (Fort Smith), Haley Cassie (Norman Wells), alternate Sarah Porter (Fort Smith)
Ski, juvenile male: Elie Lepage (Hay River), Nikolas Hawkins (Hay River) alternate Grayson Groenewegen (Hay River)
Snowshoe, junior female: Madison McLeod (Aklavik), Finnlay Rutherford-Simon (Fort Smith), alternate Paris Wainman (Inuvik)
Snowshoe, junior male: Jed Mitchell (Fort Smith), Michael Cardinal (Inuvik), alternate Joel Arey (Inuvik)
Snowshoe, juvenile female: Dayle Cole (Tsiigehtchic), Autumn Gilroy (Norman Wells)
Snowshoe, juvenile male: Hunter Groenewegen (Hay River), Benjamin Mitchell (Fort Smith)
Full team roster for midget hockey:
Luke Pettipas (Hay River), Samuel Skinner (Inuvik), Kaden Beck (Hay River), Colten Mitsuing-Deneron (Fort Liard), Jacob Lennie (Inuvik) and the remainder from Yellowknife – McKinley Talbot, Tyler Caines, Carter McLeod, Luke Kotaska, Jack Kotaska, Ethan Anstey, Ayden Harvey, Logan Cunningham, Liam Carroll, Justin Powder, Thomas Matesic and Devin Vogel.
The alternates are: Dawson Enns (Yellowknife), Aiden Allan (Yellowknife) Conner McKay-Ivanko (Hay River), Nathan Cluff (Yellowknife) and Gavyn Lamoureux (Hay River).