It’s been a weekend of firsts for Nunavut all around the country.
The rink skipped by Jenine Bodner won Nunavut’s first main draw game at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Sydney, N.S., and now, it’s the boys hockey team’s turn.
The boys took to the ice against Yukon in the territory’s inaugural contest at the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alta., on Sunday and they ended up winning the territory’s inaugural contest against Yukon on Sunday by a score of 5-3. Josie Cote of Iqaluit ended up scoring the eventual game-winner midway through the third period and added the empty-netter to salt it away with 10 seconds remaining.
Head coach Martin Joy said it was a fantastic experience and Cote’s empty-netter took all the pressure off.
“A lot of the credit goes to those guys out on the ice for the last 30 seconds,” he said. “They followed the game plan the coaching staff set up for them and it worked out.”
Bradley Nowdluk-Fraser of Iqaluit will be the answer to a trivia question for the rest of time as he became the first Nunavut hockey player to score a goal at the Games, potting the game’s opening marker midway through the first period.
Yukon got one back late to tie it at 1-1 after the first and it remained deadlocked after two at 3-3 before Cote scored the game’s last two goals.
Joy said Cote spent a bit too much time in the sin bin – eight minutes total – but that’s Cote’s style.
“He plays a hard, physical game and did so today,” he said. “He’s not afraid to do the dirty work to get the job done.”
There was no misconception in the locker room prior to the game about the significance of this moment for Nunavut hockey, added Joy, and the nerves were obvious to everyone.
“We talked about it, we didn’t hide it,” he said. “We wanted to go out and represent ourselves and our territory with pride and put in a strong effort. The boys came up with the goals of effort, communicating with each other and sacrificing the body. That’s what they wanted to do and we did it well.”
Newfoundland and Labrador is up next for Nunavut tonight at 7:30 p.m. MST and Joy said there isn’t a big game plan ahead of that contest.
“It all comes down to effort,” he said. “Get to the important areas on the ice and focus on every shift and that’s what will drive us. It’s all about keeping it simple.”