Diamond Jenness Secondary School’s Senior Panthers lost their final game against Sir John Franklin of Yellowknife but the Junior Panthers took SJF for 5-1 in their finals having gone undefeated throughout the tournament.
Scott Belanger opened the juniors final game with two goals. Up 2-0, they were answered by a SJF’s Philip Park followed up by Levon Schumann raising the score for DJ again.
Schumann scored again assisted by Jordan Scott and the game winning goal was scored by Donovan Perron assisted by Calvin King.
“Everyone’s number was on the score sheet for that game,” said Panther’s coach J.J. Hirst. “Either a goal or an assist, everyone got in on the action.”
DJSS met their match in the final game against Yellowknife, with SJF taking an 8-2 win. Scoring was opened by SJF’s number 99 Devon Hinchey during the senior game, scoring the first two goals. The first goal from the Panther’s was scored by Luke Daigneault followed by Andre LeBlanc.
“Andre LeBlanc went to end to end, that was a highlight goal for the tournament us,” said Hirst. “It was just a little too late for us though.”
At 4-0, Hirst was heavy with encouragement, giving each player a “good” shift as they skidded into the benches to let another group pile out. But a few bad breaks early on in the game put the Panthers in a hole early from which they wouldn’t recover.
Just as SJF’s Hinchey opened the game he closed it off, scoring the last two goals.
“I was proud of our boys and girls,” said Hirst. “They didn’t give up, and they kept their heads high and kept trying. I was proud of them for that. They realized it just wasn’t their game. You’ve got to give (SJF) credit; they played hard and they deserved to win.”
There was a significant drop in numbers in this year’s hockey tournament. But it wasn’t from lack of enthusiasm shown by the teams that were present.
It’s usually a tournament that hosts teams from as far as Cambridge Bay, Rankin Inlet and Inuvik.
DJSS put in both junior and senior teams as did SJF.
“We’re in competition with Arctic Winter Games trials next weekend,” said Hirst. “For the (further away team) to try to do back to back weekends would have been too much. They want to give kids the chance to the games and we don’t blame them for that.”
By Sunday teams were rounding up players and heading back to their hometowns. It may have been a smaller tournament but players had a great time in Hay River, said Hirst.
And as this is the first appearance in half a decade from PWK High School in Fort Smith, Hirst said he’s hoping this will reignite a healthy competition between the towns.
“We’ve been trying to get PWK back for a few years now,” said Hirst. “We used to have a really good rivalry. If we can get those guys coming back maybe it could be a great South Slave battle.”
As always there was help from countless parents, teachers and businesses for which Hirst was grateful.
“You asked people to do things and they were done,” said Hirst. “That’s something our town can be proud of.”