It’s not often you see Yellowknife take on Whitehorse in a hockey tournament championship game down south. If you do, it’s probably something along the lines of the Arctic Winter Games.
But the CR Oilers and Whitehorse Mustangs did lock horns in the title contest of the Spring Classic’s U13 division Tier 2 title contest on Monday in Richmond, B.C. And the good guys won.
The Oilers prevailed in a battle of the territorial capitals, 3-2, a result coach Stu Impett said was rather impressive considering the lack of ice time the team has had over the past month.
“Not being out there for four weeks was tough, but we got better each game,” he said. “We did a bit of dryland up at the (Multi-Sport) training centre and the kids were skating in outdoor spaces when it wasn’t wicked cold. We even went to Behchoko for ice time on the Monday before leaving. We had five minutes to warm up before our first game and that was it. We had to be ready.”
The Oilers finished the round-robin with an even record of one win, one loss and one tie. The defeat was in their opening contest, 4-3, before coming back in their second game from 4-0 down to earn a 4-4 draw.
“I told the kids even though we tied, getting the four goals back in our second game was important because if it came down to tiebreakers, goal difference would be it,” said Impett.
A 10-3 win in their final game saw the Oilers head to the semifinal versus Sooke, B.C. Sooke went in undefeated with three wins from their three games and were a trifle confident, according to Impett.
“They were the dominant team for about two periods, but I think we surprised them,” he said. “I’m sure they felt good going in against us.”
But it would be the Oilers who would move on to the final against Whitehorse in what Impett called a back-and-forth contest, but the difference was goaltender Nate Harris.
“Nate had several consecutive shots against him and stopped a lot of them,” said Impett. “He was a big part of our win. Our forwards played really well also. They were getting better positioning as the games went on and did a lot of right things in the final.”
Impett also felt that this may have been a preview of things to come down the road.
“This was a possible sneak peek at who could be playing against each other at the AWG in 2024,” he said. “Whitehorse was a very worthy foe, but it’s always nice to beat your ‘frenemies’.”