If you were to say the Yk Robins women’s hockey team were the unbeaten defending champions of the Moosehide Mammas Tournament, you’d be right.
The Robins made the trip to Fort Simpson earlier this month for the 18th annual edition of the women’s tournament and came out victorious when the final buzzer sounded thanks to a 5-4 win over Fort Nelson, B.C., in the final. The win capped off an unbeaten weekend for the ladies as they won all four of their games.
It’s the second title in three years for the Robins but you could put an asterisk beside that as the ladies weren’t able to attend the 2019 edition of the tournament, hence the unbeaten title.
Jenn Ryden made the trip with the ladies and said the final was a back-and-forth affair from the opening puck drop.
“It was definitely the toughest game we had all weekend and probably the closest,” she said.
Neither team had more than a one-goal lead at any point during the final until the last 90 seconds of regulation time. That’s when Lacey Taylor-Payne finished off a blue line to blue line rush and snapped home the go-ahead goal, which turned out to be the tournament-winner. Fort Nelson pulled their goaltender for the extra attacker to try and find an equalizer but Robins goaltender Kyra Powder shut the door to preserve the win.
“It was beautiful,” said Ryden. “Lacey got to the blue line, took a slap shot and it got past the goalie. It was probably the only slap shot that went in for us all weekend.”
The Robins started the tournament with a game against the Hay River Hazard and won going away, 10-4, and followed that up with a 6-3 win over the host team from Fort Simpson.
Ryden said that second game got a bit heated at times.
“There was some pushing and shoving in some parts and maybe it was frustration but who knows?,” she said. “At the end of the game, we all shook hands and everything was fine.”
To get into the final, the Robins had to overcome a tough Fort Smith team in another back-and-forth affair which also ended in a 5-4 decision for the Robins. The difference was the ladies needed sudden-death overtime to get through and it was Contessa Stead who played the hero’s role as she sunk the winner past the Fort Smith netminder with a minute remaining in bonus hockey.
“If we were still tied, we would have gone to a shootout,” said Ryden. “Thankfully, we didn’t have to worry about that.”
One thing all the teams had to contend with during the tournament was fog on the ice. Fort Simpson’s rink features natural ice with a chiller system to keep the ice cold but the heat from the players combined with the cold air made for some tough going.
“They were pumping the cold air in and there was so much fog,” said Ryden. “There were times we couldn’t see the goaltender; it got that bad.”
This was the first tournament that the Robins used their new name. In past years, women’s teams from Yellowknife had gone as either Yk Blue or Yk White but the ladies decided to re-brand the Yk Women’s Hockey League into the Yellowknife Robins in honour of Robin Mercer-Sproule, one of the city’s first and most well-known women’s hockey players.
“We had our new uniforms and we debuted our new name,” said Ryden. “It’s awesome to be able to win our first tournament with our new name.”