Half of Team NWT set for Greenland

Arctic Winter Games territorial trials halfway complete

James McCarthy | NWT
December 19, 2015
Ethan McKay of Fort Resolution tries to negotiate his way through traffic during Arctic Winter Games futsal trials in Yellowknife on Dec. 12. - Walter Strong/NNSL photo

Ethan McKay of Fort Resolution tries to negotiate his way through traffic during Arctic Winter Games futsal trials in Yellowknife on Dec. 12. – Walter Strong/NNSL photo

It’s that time of year … no, not that time of year, although Christmas is nice to think about.

The first batch of territorial trials for the 2016 Arctic Winter Games wrapped up on Dec. 12 and several sports now have an idea as to who will be going on the plane to Greenland.

Hockey, snowshoe and ski biathlon, bantam boys and junior girls hockey, volleyball, futsal, cross-country skiing and basketball all had its respective trials and it wasn’t an easy decision for the coaches.

Most of the 18 members of the cross-country ski team hails from Yellowknife; the only non-Yellowknife skier, Amelie Aubrey-Smith, is from Fort Smith. The team was chosen based on two days of racing at the Yellowknife Ski Club.

Head coach Mike Argue said there was room to take more but the numbers just didn’t support it.

“A full team would have been 24 and that’s what we could have taken,” he said. “We had a couple of holes in that no junior boys tried out. We do have a few skiers who are that age but they tried out for biathlon but it’s still a sizable team, though.” The bantam boys hockey trials saw a total of 17 players make the cut – 15 skaters and two goaltenders.

Brad Anstey is head coach for the bantam boys, who will be playing their games in Iqaluit after a deal was struck to host the bantam boys and the girls hockey games in the Nunavut capital due to there being no ice arenas at all in Nuuk, the host city.

He said the final decisions weren’t made right up until the final scrimmage game.

“We have such good depth and a real good talent pool to pick from,” he said. “It’s not only in Yellowknife but the communities are right up there.”

One of the big things Anstey said was a huge help to him was a full scouting staff at his disposal, made up of people who had absolutely no stake in the team – meaning no parents – and that went a long way in making sure the best of the best will hit the ice in March.

“Paul Murphy was there and he was in charge of the evaluations,” he said. “They ran a great program and it took a lot of the stress off of the coaching staff. It made it easy for me to be mentally prepared and fresh every day and be in a good position to make those final cuts. I think the evaluation committee got it right.”

In terms of volleyball, both the girls and boys teams are set to go. The boys team is being looked after by head coach Scott McQueen, who had to narrow his outfit down to 10 plus three alternates from a group of 28, while Chrissy Kerrigan will be looking after the girls. Kerrigan also chose 10 players to head to Greenland.

McQueen said coming up with his squad was a tough job.

“All 28 put out their 100 per cent best effort and made things really difficult,” he said.

Something else the boys team has is plenty of youth as eight of the players are 16 years of age; just one player is returning from the 2014 team.

McQueen said he isn’t worried at all about the lack of experience because the boys will make up for it in a different way.

“Whatever they lack in experience, they’ll make up for it in enthusiasm and energy,” he said. “That was present throughout the whole weekend and when kids put that much time and effort into developing something, they will develop really quickly.”

The plan for the boys is to have them play together in the territorial championships at the end of February to get them a few games under their belts and McQueen said they’ll spend the rest of the week together working out the kinks before heading over to Greenland.

Futsal had five teams to choose on the weekend and they are now all set to go. It’s all about learning a brand new game this time around as traditional indoor soccer with the walls has been replaced a smaller, non-walled type of game which is designed to help with skill development and control, not to mention the ball is smaller and only bounces no more three times if it’s inflated properly.

The intermediate girls will be the oldest group of the bunch and Rebecca Alty is the head coach this time around. The team will be looking to improve on its bronze medal performance from 2014.

If there’s any hope of winning a gold ulu, it will have to come at the expense of Team Sapmi, who are the reigning and defending gold uluit.

The Sapmi always come to the Games loaded to kill two bears offensively and Alty said much of why they’re so successful has to do with their training regimen.

“Every time you see them at meal time, they’re loading up on the carbs,” she said. “By game time, they’re full of energy and that’s why their so dominant. They’re also running for about 45 minutes before the game as well so they’re already in game shape.”

Much of the team hails from Yellowknife and Behchoko, which is a huge advantage because that means training and practice time before the Games won’t be an issue.

“There’s a chance to get together on weekends because the Behchoko girls can drive in,” she said. “The only girl who won’t be able to make it is a girl from Tuktoyaktuk but for the rest of the girls, they’ll have the chance to get together frequently.”