And we are underway with the largest multi-winter sport gathering of its kind in Canada.
The 2019 Canada Winter Games got underway in Red Deer, Alta., on Feb. 15 with the opening ceremony as gymnast Maggie Carson led Team NT into the Red Deer Centrium with the other 12 provinces and territories.
Once that was out of the way, it was time for sports to begin and while it was table tennis which got going first on Saturday with the team event, consisting of the three boys and girls players taking on the other squads, Wren Acorn was the talk of the Games for Team NT on Monday.
Acorn had the first real shot at winning a medal for the territory as she raced her way to the final of the girls 1,500-metre speedskating event but she was unable to hit the podium. It ended up being an eighth place finish in a race which saw her taken out with three laps remaining in the race.
She had qualified for the semifinals after winning her heat and being one of the top fourth-placed finishers in the quarter-finals. From there, it was only the top two from each of the three races that would move on to the final.
Shane Clark, the speedskating team’s head coach, said said she was the recipient of a bit of good fortune down the stretch.
“She was in fourth (with) two skaters vying for second place and they took each other out (with) two laps left,” he said ” Wren held her own, not panicking and looking for an opportunity and it paid off.”
In other action, the boys relay team had a fine showing on Monday as they ended up getting to the B final set to take place on Friday but their time of 4:31.414 set a new NWT mark, breaking the old mark which was set at the 2018 Arctic Winter Games on Fort Smith.
Now, back to table tennis.
The team format saw a doubles match start things off followed by two singles matches. If no team won three matches by that point, each team nominated another player to play up to two more singles matches.
The boys table tennis squad opened up the team competition of the Games against Yukon on Saturday morning and ended up coming out on top by a score of 3-1 in matches. David Dragon of Yellowknife ended up winning the third match for Team NT as he beat his Yukon opponent in straight sets.
“It feels great,” said Dragon after the win. “I lost the doubles match but my singles went a lot better.”
Indeed, the doubles tandem of Dragon and Conner McKay-Ivanko of Hay River ended up on the wrong end of that decision, dropping the opening contest in four sets. McKay-Ivanko rebounded to win his singles match while Nikhilesh Gohil of Yellowknife was a winner as well in four sets with Dragon putting the final nail in the coffin thanks to his win.
Dragon said he had an idea of what he would be up against when it came to playing Yukon as the team went to Whitehorse earlier this year for a training camp with that territory’s Games squad.
“I knew what their strategies were going to be and I knew a bit of how they would play,” he said. “I was surprised I won the match in straight sets.”
They were set to take on Nunavut later this afternoon in their final group match-up.
Thorsten Gohl, the team’s head coach, was just as excited about the team’s win.
“It was a super atmosphere and they all played great,” he said. “It’s amazing for them to be here and the team is soaking everything up.”
Next up for the boys was Nunavut but it didn’t go as well as they lost three straight matches. Following a loss to Prince Edward Island, there was one more match with Yukon, which the boys ended up winning in three straight.
The girls had an opening round contest against Nova Scotia, which ended in defeat, followed by a match-up with Newfoundland and Labrador, which was also unsuccessful. They were able to beat Yukon on Saturday but met up again with Nova Scotia and it ended up being a second loss to them. They were playing Nunavut on Monday as of press time to wrap things up.
As for the boys hockey team, they were on the ice Saturday morning against Newfoundland and Labrador for their first game and it started out well enough as they jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second period at one point. Newfoundland and Labrador came on too strong and was a bit too much for the boys in the second half of the game as they skated away with a 5-3 win.
Head coach Mirsad Mujcin said the opening part of the game went as well as it could have.
“Our power-play was clicking and they came out strong,” he said. “We just made a couple of mistakes and that’s because they’ve had a couple of long days with flying in and the opening ceremony the night before. We’re not dwelling on it and we know what we have to do to fix it.”
An already tough job for the boys was made even tougher when Jonah Bevington was given the gate for a check from behind in the first period.
“He’s a talented player and an essential part of our offence so losing him early was tough,” said Mujcin. “The other guys on the bench stepped up and adapted to the situation and I thought they pushed through it great.”
Logan Cunningham had two goals in the losing effort while Sam Schofield added the other marker. Ethan Anstey had two assists.
Prince Edward Island was up next for the boys on Sunday morning and again, they jumped out to an early lead but were unable to hold it. They ended up on the wrong end of a 3-2 decision, a goal in the last 72 seconds of regulation being the difference.
Samuel Schofield, Team NT’s captain, said the winner was simply a lucky bounce.
“They moved the puck around the zone and it ended up on someone’s stick,” he said. “They got a lucky bounce.”
It was a bitter pill to swallow for Schofield as he scored the tying marker in the third period to get the game back to 2-2. For the second straight game, Team NT opened the scoring, this time through Andrew Carr as he got one late in the first period. Prince Edward Island took the lead in the second period before Schofield’s equalizer.
“I thought we could get this game,” said Schofield. “We thought we could get the game (vs. Newfoundland and Labrador) also but we just need to work harder and make less mistakes.”
The boys finally got into the win column thanks to a 4-2 win over Yukon later in the evening and they finished the round-robin on Monday evening with a 6-0 win over Nunavut.
In other sports, Spencer Littlefair was the only biathlete from Yellowknife on the course and he was in action on Monday as the boys 7.5-km sprint event took place. He finished in 30 th place while the gymnasts were in action in the team event on Monday, where they were 11 th.