Yellowknife Wolfpack peewees roar to victory in Victoria

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Seems the Yellowknife Wolfpack peewees have that AA thing down pretty good.

The team has itself some new neckware thanks to their win at the Juan de Fuca Tier 2 Tournament in Victoria on Sunday. They polished off an unbeaten weekend with a 4-0 win over the Whitehorse Mustangs in the final.

The Yellowknife Wolfpack peewees show off their gold medals after winning the Juan de Fuca Tier 2 Tournament in Victoria this past Sunday. They are, front row from left, Gavin Craig and Jamie Cluff; second row from left, Joe Curran, Ethan Bowerman, River McQueen, Harrison Simmons, D.J. Doyle, Kelden Hendrickson and Brady Seabrook, third row from left, Ethan Carr, Bradley Bartlett, Drew MacKinnon, Michael Van Metre, Crew True-Jewell, Emmery Golchert and Anthony Duhamel; back row from left, Brad Anstey (head coach), Peter Curran (associate coach), R.J. Carr (assistant coach) and Jeff Seabrook (manager).
photo courtesy of Dean Cluff

The Wolfpack’s round-robin started with a convincing 8-0 victory over a team from Portland, Oregon. Head coach Brad Anstey said the opener was a true team effort made possible, in large part, by an earlier trip to Shawnigan Lake School, just outside Victoria.

“I wanted the kids to focus on being a team,” he said. “I took them there and we played an exhibition game against the school’s midget team and it was all about showing them that if they played well as a team, you’ll do well.”

If game one was a group effort, the next two weren’t exactly models of teamwork, according to Anstey. However, they still found a way to win: 7-4 over Whitehorse and 5-3 against Kerry Park from B.C.

“They got out of that team focus and started playing like individuals,” Anstey said. “We just kept on them about playing like a team and not losing sight of the goal.”
The win over Kerry Park was a big one for Gavin Craig, who was called up to be the team’s back-up goaltender, playing behind Jamie Cluff. Craig tended goal in that one and his efforts helped lock up first place in the pool for the Wolfpack.

“He gave us an awesome effort and gave us a chance to win that,” Anstey said. “He embraced his role so well and just had an amazing attitude the entire tournament. He’s the kind of guy you want on your team.”

With a night’s sleep to re-focus, the Wolfpack came out for the semifinal against Seafair from B.C. and took the game right to them. In the end, the Wolfpack were victorious 9-4 to clinch their place in the gold medal bout.

“We got back to what we did on Friday in that game,” said Anstey. “Our defence was awesome, got the forwards some great passes. They were even pulling off no-look passes and these are peewee players doing that. Their confidence was amazing.”

In the final against Whitehorse, the Wolfpack dominated from start to finish, Anstey said, not even giving the other team a real scoring chance on their way to a shutout win and the title.

“We had to have had at least 50 shots on goal,” he said. “The iPad we had to track shots died when it was 42-6 in shots so we had at least that many but we had much more.”

It was only a 4-0 result thanks in large part to the Mustangs’ goaltender, who Anstey said stood on his head.

“He played awesome and kept them in it,” he said. “We were just peppering him every shift and he somehow kept a lot of them out. It could have easily been 10-0 or worse.”

With a AA win under their belts, Anstey is starting to look at the bigger picture and challenging his players to move up the ladder. Next up for the peewees will be the Regina Classic in January, a AAA tournament, followed by the Coca-Cola Classic in Vernon, B.C., another AAA tournament.

“They only want the best teams in Vernon and I told the organizers that we may not win a game but we are going to make whoever plays us earn it,” said Anstey. “If the other teams don’t bring their best against us, we’ll have no problem stealing a win.”

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