The coaches know who they have to pick from. The job now is figuring out who will get a uniform.
The boys and girls teams are now ready to go following the completion of the Canada Winter Games selection camps in Yellowknife, which wrapped up on Aug. 19, and both head coaches said they are happy with their picks.
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.”
Most of the boys haven’t had a lot of ice time over the summer but that wasn’t a make-or-break issue for the coaching staff, said Mujcin.
He said everyone needs a break from hockey at some point and this is an early camp, meaning it took a bit of time for the players to get back into solid game shape.
“It’s early in the season and once they get into the groove, they start buying into the discipline,” he said. “Everyone came along as the days went on and some of this may be all new to them, which I totally understand. Some of the players may not have done all of the things we asked of them before this camp. At the end of the day, the effort was there and it’s like a job – the boss wants you to do something one way and it may not be the way you’ve been taught to do it but you give it a go.”
Mujcin spent plenty of time working on special teams, such as power-plays and penalty killing, and while that’s going to be an important part of the repertoire, he said it was more about getting the players out of their comfort zones rather than finding ways to nick chances off of their opponents when the games begin.
“The big reason I did that was to have the boys understand what we want to do in our own zone,” he said. “We want to create space out there and I wanted to see where they were when it comes to a game situation. It’s about who gets it, who understands it and who’s willing to leave that comfort zone. That’s a big sign of development for a player.”
For the girls, the job of putting everything together fell to head coach Jessica Cox of Fort Smith.
She 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.”
Unlike the boys style of game, special teams doesn’t dominate the girls side of it, although Cox said the chances will come at some points in games.
She said that while it isn’t a focal point, the power play is where they will take their chances.
“I expect it to be mostly five-on-five in our games but we will be using our power-play to get an advantage if it arises,” she said.
Competition for spots among the girls wasn’t as hectic as it was for the boys as there was a smaller pool of players to pick from.
That meant plenty of good scrimmages and practices because the margin of error was slight, said Cox.
“We re-enforced the message of coming ready to compete every time,” she said. “It upped the ante in a way and the players met or exceeded those expectations we had of them. We did some fitness testing and it was made clear to the players that they would be expected to do well in that.”
One of those tests was the dreaded beep test, where players do sprints back and forth hoping to beat the beep, which gets quicker as the levels go higher.
That wasn’t an issue, said Cox.
“It was clear many of our players prepared for that and everything else,” she said. “It’s important that they’re fit when they show up for camp and it’s easy to tell who’s prepared and who isn’t.”
One thing the girls will have to worry about is the goaltending situation as there’s just one on the roster right now, that being Jamie Cluff of Yellowknife. The rules state that each team must have two goaltenders on their official roster.
Brad Anstey, Hockey NWT’s president, said the work to find a solution is ongoing.
“We’re working with the parties involved to do what we can to fill that position with the options we have available to us,” he said. “We’re moving ahead and we’re hoping to fill the spot from within the NWT.”
FACT FILE – Tentative Canada Winter Games hockey rosters
- Andrew Carr, Yellowknife
- Anthony Duhamel, Yellowknife
- Carter McLeod, Yellowknife
- Ethan Anstey, Yellowknife
- Ethan Aumond, Yellowknife
- Kaden Beck, Hay River
- 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
- Declan Munro, Hay River
- 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
- Brooklyn Helyar, Yellowknife
- Chandelle Leonard, Hay River
- 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
- Layne Leonard, Hay River
- Leesha Setzer, Inuvik
- Mackenzie Granger, Inuvik
- Madelyne Minkoff, Yellowknife
- Regan Bulger, Yellowknife
- Sarah Fleming, Yellowknife
- Taylor Catcher, Yellowknife
- Jamie Cluff, Yellowknife