It wasn’t hard to see Curtis Rowe’s divided loyalties during the final of the Hay River Peewee Hockey Tournament on Sunday at the Ben Sivertz Arena.
On one side, there was the undefeated Hay River Huskies White team, who came into the final well-rested following a 2-1overtime win over the Fairview Lions in the first semifinal on Saturday evening. On the other side were the Hay River Huskies Blue team, who made the final after back-to-back wins over Fort Smith and Fairview on Sunday morning.
Rowe, the head coach of local peewee program, spent most of his time standing in between the two benches while volunteers Dean McMeekin and Terry Webster coached. The team had been split into two prior to the tournament.
“That was hard,” Rowe admitted moments after Hay River Huskies White clinched the title with a 7-3 win. “I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I was happy for both teams to make it to the final and was really happy they played hard and had fun.”
The two teams traded chances through the first 14 minutes of the opening period. Hay River White opened the scoring at the six minute mark when Tristan Cross picked up a loose rebound at the right side of the net, before depositing it into the open net to give Hay River White a 1-0 lead. Tanner Mandeville picked up the assist. The duo stuck two more times before the end of the period. Cross picked up his second of the contest at 1:35 off a nifty cross-crease pass from Mandeville, and then returned the favour with 27 second left in the first, feeding a wide open Mandeville in front to stake Hay River White to a 3-0 lead after one.
An energized Team Blue came out flying to start the second and were rewarded when Scott Belanger lifted a backhand past Team White goalie Colton Charlton at 18:58 to cut the lead to 3-1.
Team White’s Nicholas Stainbrook’s first of the contest at 7:35 restored Team White’s three-goal cushion, before Team Blue’s Jordon Schumann responded a minute later – shoveling the puck into the net while on his backside.
Stainbrook scored again late to give Team White a 5-2 lead heading to the third.
Team Blue came out hard in the third and closed the gap to 5-3 on Belanger’s second goal of the contest at 17:30. It was as close as Team Blue would get.
Stainbrook’s powerplay goal at 9:56 gave him the hat trick, and put Team White up 6-3. Cross’ third goal of the game three-and-a-half minutes later gave Team White a 7-3 win. The score could have been higher in the final minutes if not for the strong play of Team Blue goalie Killian Schofield, who made two huge saves in close with just over three minutes to play.
For more on local hockey teams, including upcoming tournaments go to www.hayriverminorhockey.ca.