Just when they thought it wouldn’t be safe to go back on the ice, along came the end of the strike to give them hope.

The Yk Minor Hockey Association was able to close things out this month with both the playoffs and the Chris Bergman Memorial Tournament. The tournament, which featured the U5 through U11 divisions, was originally scheduled to happen in February, but the strike forced the postponement to last weekend. The format ended up being a 3-on-3 or 4-on-4 tournament depending on the number of registrations received.

It ended up being an all-Yellowknife tournament with just the U11 division having a championship game. The Canadian North Flyers ended up coming out on top in the final on April 23 by beating the Overlander Outlaws.

The Outlaws, though, didn’t go away empty-handed in the playoffs the weekend before as they ended up winning the Atom Cup, the U11 division’s championship trophy, by beating the DT Electric Junior Females by a score of 5-2 in the final at the Multiplex.

Outlaws coach Mark Kilbride said the excitement once the final buzzer sounded was amazing.

“They all skated hard to congratulate their goaltender, gloves and stick flying everywhere,” he said. “It was a pretty cool sight to see them all end the year with that memory. You can see a genuine love for the game developing in the players.”

Overlander started quickly in the first period with three goals to go out in front, 3-0, but DT Electric slowly started getting their chances and made good on a couple of them to make it 3-2 in the third period. DT Electric went looking for the equalizer and had a couple of good chances, but couldn’t find the back of the net.

The Outlaws were able to notch a couple of late goals to salt the game away and win the crown for this season.

“I was quite impressed with the group as a whole,” said Kilbride. “It’s remarkable how much players improve over the course of the year at this age.”

But something happened in that title contest that hasn’t happened a whole lot over the years. The final featured a majority-female feel as the Outlaws counted several girls among the ranks, while DT Electric’s entire roster was female.

Ryan Nichols, who coached DT Electric in the playoffs, said the girls seemed to come together at the right time.

“We were close in a lot of our games in the regular season — we tied about six or seven games, but we did really well in the (playoff) round-robin,” he said. “The more they played as a group, the better they got.”

The girls who played with DT Electric were split into two teams — black and white — because of the numbers; a total of 35 players were part of the program. Both teams would flip-flop weekend games for the duration of the season.

Nichols said he was impressed with how they accorded themselves this season.

“They played really well as a group and you can see they’re a pass-first group,” he said.”That’s good to see in the younger ages.”

The U18 division final featured a repeat of the 2022 final as the DCL Jets and Nextreme Knights did battle. And just like that decider one year ago, the Jets emerged victorious, this time by a score of 5-0.

This was actually the third time the Jets and Knights had faced off in a championship final. The Carl Bugler Memorial Tournament this season saw both teams duke it out for the crown with the Knights coming out on top.

“This was a bit of a rubber match,” said Jets coach Peter Curran. “They had Michael Van Metre out there, Jackson Bowden and Ellie Loutitt in goal and a real good defensive corps with Ethan Bowerman and Mario Hernandez. We knew what we were up against, but we came to play.”

The Jets held down a 2-0 lead after the first period and it stayed that way until late in the third when they were able to stretch things out.

“We put the heavies out there on the first few shifts to try and get a quick couple of goals,” said Curran. It is house league, so you want everyone to get equal time after that because you want to win it the right way. Everyone contributed to this win.”

Because this is the oldest division of the league, that means several players will be aging out and Curran said the final shift was reserved for those players.

“Players like Carson Impett, Lennox Mutford — Stu (Impett) and I wanted to get those guys out there one last time,” he said.

There was a real fear among both Curran and Kilbride that the playoffs may never have happened at all. No one knew how long the strike would go on for and once the announcement was made that the season would be resuming, it was time to get excited again, according to Curran.

“Coming off of a one-month shutdown, the job was to try and get the kids excited again and we had about five or six games to do that,” he said. “I give Steve (Thompson, association president) and the board a lot of credit. They could’ve folded up the tent like the (Yk) rec league and oldtimers did, but they had the patience to hold out and it ended up being a great finish.”

Kilbride said he was just happy to see the players get back out and play.

“It’s a pleasure to see kids playing sports again and I’m glad it all worked out (and) they were able to enjoy the experience,” he said.

James McCarthy

I've been hanging around the office as the sports editor for the better part of the last 16 years. In August 2022, NNSL Media decided to promote me to the managing editor's position, which I accepted after...

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