The Hay River Midget Huskies lost out to the Yellowknife Carl’s in the final game on Nov. 17 of an invitational hockey tournament in Hay River, but had a successful weekend overall.
“The boys played hard. They have nothing to hang their heads about and I’m proud of them,” said assistant coach Keith Dohey after the game on Sunday. “They left everything they had out there. We just didn’t get the bounces. That’s hockey. The game could have gone either way.”
The Hay River Huskies Midget Invitational Tournament brought teams from Yellowknife and High Level to the hub to vie for supremacy in two divisions over the course of the weekend. Hay River fielded a team in both categories, with the local B division team coming in second.
“We all hate losing, but, if you go out and give it everything you’ve got and come up short, sometimes that’s life,” said Dohey. “But nobody has to feel like they didn’t work for the win.”
Team captain Joel Demarcke said that overall he felt the tournament had gone well.
“It went good. I had some fun, for sure,” he said. “It’s pretty nice to play every team twice. You get to learn about the other players and see where you can do better.”
In terms of improvements, Demarcke said his team needed to work on staying out of the penalty box and upping the energy a bit during games.
“We need to play smart and quick,” he said. “We need every player.”
According to Dohey, the fact that Carl’s had an extra line was a factor in Sunday’s final loss.
Demarcke agreed that, although the motivation was there to keep skating, it was difficult to keep the energy level high.
“A few of them were pretty beat up and hurting the last couple of games, but they played through it,” said Dohey. “You got to appreciate that. I think if we had had a third line to compliment out the first two it would have been a different game.”
But there were advantages to having split up the regular Hay River midget hockey team. Quinn Groenheyde, the midget Huskies’ head coach, said splitting the team up and bringing up some bantam players to the B division gave everyone a chance to play at an appropriately challenging level.
“I’ve got 18 guys this year,” he told The Hub. “It’s good for them all to play at the proper level.”
Groenheyde also said he was happy to see his players working together as a team and learning strategies that would benefit them in later games and tournaments.
“They’re really catching on and we’re seeing the benefits,” he said.
Dean McMeekin, normally the head bantam coach for Hay River, was brought up along with four of his players to the midget level for the weekend.
McMeekin said, this being an Arctic Winter Games year, the players were all pushing harder than they normally would have.
“The games have been really close, and that’s what makes it fun for the kids,” he said. “(Arctic Winter Games) is in the back of their minds and, with 50 kids trying out, they’re going to try harder all year.”
Mitigating the sting of the final loss, Groenheyde noted the stands at the Don Stewart Recreation Centre were full all weekend. He said the buzz of the crowd motivated the players and showed them the community cares about their performance, even if there aren’t always packed houses for regular weekly games.
“The tournament makes it exciting and people want to come out and see what’s going on with the team,” he said. “We have a nicely-balanced team and I’m proud of them.”