Three girls from Hay River are pretty much locks to make it to next year’s Canada Winter Games, while two boys are getting closer.
That was the result of Canada Winter Games selection camps in Yellowknife, which wrapped up Aug. 19.
As a result of the camp, the three Hay River girls – Chandelle Leonard, her older sister Layne Leonard, and Abby Webster – were chosen for the team.
Since there will be 20 players on each team but only 19 chosen as a result of the selection camp, they are pretty much guaranteed to travel to Red Deer for the games, which are set for Feb. 15 to March 3, 2019.
For the boys’ team, it’s a little more complicated.
Following the selection camp, 25 players still remain in competition for the boys’ team, including Declan Munro and Kaden Beck from Hay River.
Eventually, 20 boys will be chosen for the team, and the five others will be alternates.
“It’s kind of determined on how you play in December,” said Munro. “In December, there’s supposed to be exhibition games against Yukon and Nunavut, and then I think there’s probably going to be a practice there, too. And they’re going to determine if you’re going to be an alternate or going to Red Deer for the CWG.”
The 14-year-old played with the gold medal-winning bantam boys’ team at the Arctic Winter Games earlier this year in Hay River.
Munro, who plays defence, is hopeful that he will make the Canada Winter Games team.
“I’ll train hard here in Hay River and then give it my best shot in December, and after that I keep on training,” he said.
Munro said the selection camp in Yellowknife went well, but was challenging.
“It was intense,” he noted. “The games were pretty intense and then we had quite a few ice sessions in a day.”
Munro is looking forward to the Canada Winter Games.
“It should be good,” he said. “The competition is quite a bit harder.”
The boys’ hockey competition at the Canada Winter Games is for players under 16 years of age as of Dec. 31, 2018.
Chandelle Leonard said the girls’ selection camp in Yellowknife went well.
“It was competitive and rough and tiring,” said the forward.
Leonard, 14, was happy to make the NWT team and be heading to the Canada Winter Games.
“It will be fun,” she said.
Earlier this year, Leonard represented the NWT at the 2018 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships in Nova Scotia.
Hay River’s John Hill, the director of operations for the girls’ team, said all players emerging from the Yellowknife selection camp should be heading to Red Deer if they continue to meet all team requirements.
“I think they’re pretty much safe to be playing on the team,” he said.
Hill said it is nice to see the girls rewarded for staying involved in the sport.
“Since my involvement with Hockey NWT and the Arctic Winter Games and Canada Winter Games, we usually see two to three players on every team,” he said of the number of players from Hay River.
The girls’ hockey competition at the Canada Winter Games is for players under 18 years of age as of Dec. 31, 2018.
One notable thing about the Hay River representation is that there has been no indoor hockey in the town for most of the past two winters as the Rec Centre was rebuilt.
“I know the kids have done a good job getting to the outdoor rinks over the last couple of years and working on their skills,” said Hill. “I know they travelled lots to Yellowknife and lots to the south to keep active. It creates challenges when you’re not on the ice three times a week like they normally would.”
Hill has been to three previous Canada Winter Games.
“It is a big event,” he said. “It’s the best players in Canada for that age group.”
The head coaches of both teams said they are happy with their picks following the selection camps in Yellowknife.
Mirsad Mujcin, formerly of Yellowknife and now living in Prince George, B.C., is the boys head coach and said speed among his troops was the top priority when it came to picking his squad.
“Skating is the big thing in hockey and I wanted speed,” he said. “I wanted hockey I.Q., discipline – all the good factors that are part of any hockey team. There are a lot of players that came to camp with all of those credentials and that’s how they stick out. I want guys who want to go to Red Deer and believe in what we’re doing and that it’s the right thing and enjoy the experience.”
For the girls, the job of putting everything together fell to head coach Jessica Cox of Fort Smith.
Cox said the one thing she enjoyed seeing was the amount of competitiveness over the course of the camp.
“I really liked seeing the willingness to battle in the corners,” she said. “We have some really strong players who worked hard and came out of the corner with the puck. We have some good speed and I also liked seeing players who can play both forward and defence. From a coaching perspective, it’s been very good to watch.”
– with files from James McCarthy
These are the tentative rosters for the NWT hockey teams for next year’s Canada Winter Games. For the boys’ team, 25 players are listed, but 20 will be on the team and five will be chosen as alternates.
- Declan Munro, Hay River
- Kaden Beck, Hay River
- Andrew Carr, Yellowknife
- Anthony Duhamel, Yellowknife
- Carter McLeod, Yellowknife
- Ethan Anstey, Yellowknife
- Ethan Aumond, Yellowknife
- James MacCara, Yellowknife
- Jonah Bevington, Yellowknife
- Matthew Hayward, Yellowknife
- Michael Van Metre, Yellowknife
- River McQueen, Yellowknife
- Samuel Schofield, Yellowknife
- Samuel Skinner, Inuvik
- Tyler Caines, Yellowknife
- Tysen Almond, Yellowknife
- Alex Cordero, Yellowknife
- Drew MacKinnon, Yellowknife
- Liam Carroll, Yellowknife
- Logan Cunningham, Yellowknife
- Matthew Gillard, Yellowknife
- McKinley Talbot, Yellowknife
- Thomas Matesic, Yellowknife
- Devin Vogel, Yellowknife
- Liam Tereposky, Yellowknife
- Abby Webster, Hay River
- Chandelle Leonard, Hay River
- Layne Leonard, Hay River
- Brooklyn Helyar, Yellowknife
- Dakota Earle, Yellowknife
- Deanne Whenham, Yellowknife
- Emily Carroll, Yellowknife
- Emma Carey, Yellowknife
- Emma Wicks, Yellowknife
- Katie Hart, Yellowknife
- Kiah Vail, Fort Smith
- Kyra McDonald, Inuvik
- Leesha Setzer, Inuvik
- Mackenzie Granger, Inuvik
- Madelyne Minkoff, Yellowknife
- Regan Bulger, Yellowknife
- Sarah Fleming, Yellowknife
- Taylor Catcher, Yellowknife
- Jamie Cluff, Yellowknife