Medal slips away from Nunavut hockey boys

Alaska takes bronze medal 9-1

Casey Lessard | Iqaluit
March 10, 2016
Casey Lessard/NNSL photo Alaska defenders steal the puck from Nunavut attacker Kevin Voisey, just as they took the bronze medal from a Nunavut team hoping to be the "dark horse" in the medal round. Alaska won 9-1 March 10.

Casey Lessard/NNSL photo
Alaska defenders steal the puck from Nunavut attacker Kevin Voisey, just as they took the bronze medal from a Nunavut team hoping to be the “dark horse” in the medal round. Alaska won 9-1 March 10.

Nunavut’s boys hockey team wanted to be a surprise bronze medallist, but Alaska saw them coming. After losing the semi-final to NWT Thursday morning, Nunavut had to fight for goals in a 9-1 loss to Alaska, which had finished the round-robin tied for first, but ranked second due to goal-differential. The defending champion lost its semi-final to Alberta North Thursday, setting up the bronze game. Josie Kilabuk-Cote had the lone goal for Nunavut.

“Despite the score, which became a bit lopsided, we held onto that game for a pretty long time,” said Nunavut coach Conor Fudge. “We came into it with a good attitude. We felt like we improved every game this tournament, and we didn’t quit.”

Casey Lessard/NNSL photo Nunavut's Quentien Issaluk fights for the puck behind the Nunavut net in a losing battle for the bronze medal March 10.

Casey Lessard/NNSL photo
Nunavut’s Quentien Issaluk fights for the puck behind the Nunavut net in a losing battle for the bronze medal March 10.

The American state had the advantage, Fudge said, due to the level of play the Alaskan boys are used to.

“These are kids who play in some pretty good programs in Alaska,” he said. “It’s an experienced group over there, well-coached. We’ve had to come together in a very short time. We haven’t had a lot of ice time with these guys throughout the year, just the training camp coming into these games. If you look at that, what they’ve accomplished this week is pretty impressive. We came away with a win. We were able to give a couple of teams a good scare. We were able to leave an impression.”

That impression was certainly left on Yukon, which was eliminated by virtue of winning no games. Nunavut beat them Wednesday, and knew it would face two of the three other teams, all of which had won three games and lost one.

Nunavut has the disadvantage of fielding a team of players who come from a diversity of spread-out communities and little training as a single unit.

“But if you think long term about this,” Fudge said, “you have one kid from Pang, one from Arctic Bay, a couple from Repulse, what those guys take back to their communities, they up the level and share what they’ve learned with their teammates back there. I think that’s invaluable. It helps us coaches sleep better at night knowing we can be impactful beyond the major centres.”

The boys packed up their gear and were set to travel to Nuuk Thursday night for the closing ceremony Friday.

“They’re very deserving of a little bit of fun and relaxation,” he said. “Get an experience of what these games are supposed to be about. They did a great job hosting here in Iqaluit, but it will be nice to see some other athletes from different sports and nations and contingents.”