Both head into playoffs ranked first
Stewart Burnett | Iqaluit
March 9, 2016
The Northwest Territories’ two hockey teams in the 2016 Arctic Winter Games have proven to be at the top of their packs going into the final day of games.
Boys want an Alaskan rematch
Only Team Alaska has managed to best the Team NWT boys so far with a 3-1 win, and NWT coach Brad Anstey wants a rematch.
“The game against Alaska could have went either way,” he said on Wednesday. “The boys played really well in that game.”
Connor Fleming scored NWT’s only goal that game.
But the boys carried over the positives in their game to the next match, against Team Alberta North, which they won 5-0. Fleming, Austin Daniels, Logan Debogorski and Kieran Kobaissi all factored in the scoring.
“We got back on a really good forecheck,” said Anstey. “We used our speed and we won the battles and races to the puck. That was a really good game and a really good test for our boys to bounce back after the loss to Alaska.”
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Alaska lost the Wednesday night game to Alberta, so NWT finished first in the round robin, and will face Nunavut in the semi-final match to decide who will go to the gold medal match.]
They also beat Team Nunavut 9-3 Wednesday afternoon in their final round-robin game, but the game wasn’t as lopsided as the score.
“Nunavut’s a strong team,” said Anstey. “They played very disciplined today, which was quite surprising. They’re a well-coached team and you could see them improving as the week got along.”
Fleming and Daniels both clocked hat tricks in the game.
Team NWT jumped out to a 4-0 lead, but Nunavut came back and gave them a run for their money, narrowing the gap to 5-3 in the 3rd period.
“They just kept battling,” said Anstey. “Those guys worked their asses off. They had a great forecheck, put a lot of pressure on our D. Nunavut is a well-coached hockey team and they gave us a big scare here today.”
He’s hoping the boys can get another crack at Alaska in medal play Thursday.
“We’ve got some secrets we really don’t want to share at this point,” said Anstey when asked how his team was going to beat the undefeated Alaskans.
“But I can tell you they are a similar style of team that we are. They will play an aggressive style of forecheck just as well as we will. I think the team that has the least amount of turnovers and the team that gets the lucky bounce here or there will be the team that will win.”
Girls sticking to defensive strategy
Two shutouts for the Team NWT girls and a 1-1 tie against Alaska proved the group’s defence-first strategy was in full swing.
“We’ve had some really close games,” said coach John Hill on Wednesday.
The girls beat Yukon 3-0 and trounced Nunavut 18-0 before the tie against Alaska.
Anna MacCara scored twice in the Yukon win, with another goal from Captain Davina McLeod.
The girls are going to stick with their system going into the final day of games Thursday.
“We’re going to stick with our game plan, defence first,” said Hill. “That’s how we’re going to play tomorrow. It’s worked so far this week.”