Mistakes are bound to happen in any sporting contest, no matter what it is.
The job is to try and limit them.
That’s what both of Team NT’s hockey teams will be looking to do when the Canada Winter Games begin next month in Red Deer, Alta. The boys will be up first in week one and will be in the only five-team pool of the Games where they will take on Yukon, Nunavut, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Boys head coach Mirsad Mujcin said it’s all going to come at the boys fast and the job is to keep them grounded.
“The prep is simple: re-introducing all that we’ve worked on to now when we get to Red Deer,” he said. “The goal is to try and limit the mistakes we make and get them back into the system we want them to play. We’re taking them out of their seasons and it’s all new to them, but we want them to be on the same page.”
Among the games the boys will have, there are two winnable ones in Yukon and Nunavut but with just two teams advancing to the playoffs from Pool C – the NWT’s pool – three wins will no doubt be a minimum.
The boys will be up against Newfoundland and Labrador in their first game and Mujcin said it’s a must-win game right out of the gate.
“That’s one we have to get,” he said. “We have to knock off either them or Prince Edward Island to have a chance. The beauty is we don’t know about them and they don’t know about us so it’s up in the air. If we can have good puck possession, be smart and execute when we have the chance, good things will happen.”
The boys will be rolling four lines with the top two being the scoring punch. Lines three and four will be the energy lines; Mujcin said the third line will be the shutdown line and the fourth line will be all-out go.
“You take a look at teams that have deep playoff runs and it’s the third and fourth-liners who are the unsung heroes,” he said. “You have to score to win, but those guys are the ones who do a lot of work in the trenches.”
The girls, meanwhile, are in week two of the games and will also be in a pool featuring every team the boys will be playing minus Nunavut, which didn’t enter a girls team.
Game one for the girls will be against Prince Edward Island and just like the boys, it’s a game they’ll need to win in order to have any chance to get out of their pool.
“We’ve already talked about getting that first win,” said Tehnille Gard, who’s one of the assistant coaches for the team. “We’re hoping to catch them a bit tired after their flight out west. We only have one plane to take with a short drive so we won’t be as tired as they will be. If we can find our groove faster than them, we’ll have a shot.”
Unlike the boys, the girls will be gathering in Yellowknife before taking off for Red Deer for a week-long camp with plenty of on-ice work scheduled and some exhibition games.
In the meantime, Gard said the focus is on making sure the girls stick to their fitness plans and do what
has to be done in advance of the games.
One thing which has still yet to be done is figure out their back-up goaltender situation. As of right now, Jamie Cluff is the only goaltender for the girls and Gard said the team is still waiting on confirmation of what will happen in terms of goalie no. 2.
“There was some movement over the holidays on that, but I’ve heard nothing since then,” she said.
As for Cluff, there isn’t any sort of illusion of grandeur about what she’ll face on the ice, added Gard.
“She’ll be busy,” she said. “She’s always saying she’s practising for the games and it’s great to see her getting ready for it. She’s always saying how she went to a tournament and she faced 60 shots a game and that’s impressive. We know when she gets in the net, she’ll do her thing.”