Sad to lose, but proud of effort
Stewart Burnett | Iqaluit
March 10, 2016
Confidence was the deciding factor in the finale of the 2016 Arctic Winter Games bantam boys hockey tournament.
Team NWT, coming in as the top seed in the gold-medal game against Team Alberta North March 10, lost 5-4 to their underdog rivals after a nail-biter finish.
“They came in as the underdogs,” said NWT coach Brad Anstey following the game. “We beat them 5-0 in the round-robin and they came out really strong. They started the game off with nothing to lose, and our boys didn’t really answer until the 2nd period.”
Alberta jumped out to a 1-0 lead, then 2-0, but NWT fought back in the 2nd period and were trailing 3-2 going into the final frame.
The confidence of the Albertans was palpable and obvious: their players were smiling during breaks, fist bumping, talking each other up.
“They just treated it as any other game,” said Anstey. “We were a little bit nervous and the nerves kind of got the best of our guys in the first period. I think that was the difference in the game.”
Down 5-2 in the third period, the NWT boys put up a valiant fight, pulling it back to 5-4 in the dying minutes.
“We out-chanced them, but they just held us off,” said Anstey.
Forward Austin Daniels admitted he was sad to lose and take home silver, but he wouldn’t have changed anything.
“We put all our effort into that game, never quit, put it all out there,” he said. “It felt good that we did everything we could.”
He called the tournament a great experience.
Anstey said the players were down after losing — as anyone would be — but he was proud of his team’s effort.
“We just kept battling,” he said. “When you lose a gold medal game and you have the lead and you blow it, it’s a lot different than when you’re coming from behind and you leave it all out on the ice trying to get that tying goal. That’s what our boys did. They battled hard right to the very end. They’re very proud of themselves. They’re very proud to be able to represent the Northwest Territories.”
He called the Arctic Winter Games experience hugely developmental to the players.
“It was huge for these kids to have an opportunity to come over here and play hockey at this level and represent our territory,” he said. “It gives them a confidence boost to go back and to continue playing this sport, continue making good life decisions.”
From a coaching perspective, he said, these high-level experiences help build the country’s future leaders.
“A lot of kids on this team got the opportunity to lead in a lot of different ways, and they realized that hard work pays off,” said Anstey. “Hopefully, the AWG has a long lasting impact on their future development as individuals.”