The 2014 Arctic Winter Games are now committed to history and Hay River’s best and brightest certainly didn’t disappoint in Fairbanks, Alaska.
As a town, 16 athletes came away with some sort of hardware from their chosen sports, such as Brooke Schaefer, who won a bronze uluit in badminton thanks to a win in the junior girls doubles with her partner, Sujal Shrestha of Yellowknife.
Clell Crook was a double medalist in snowshoe biathlon, snagging bronze in the junior boys 4-km mass start and the same result in the junior mixed 3 x 2-km relay, where he was teammates with Kaed Blake.
The bantam boys hockey team suffered a cruel fate and were forced to settle for the bronze ulu thanks to a 5-4 win over Nunavut but in all respects, it should have been a lot better.
The boys held down a 5-1 lead in the third period of their semifinal against Alberta North but a huge collapse in the final frame saw the boys cough up five goals in less than 15 minutes and they couldn’t recover, losing 6-5.
As much as the bantam boys had a disappointing loss, the midget boys suffered perhaps the crueler fate.
The midgets were the betting favourites heading into the gold ulu game against Alaska on March 22, having gone unbeaten through the round-robin. In the title contest, Team NWT was rolling, building up a 4-1 lead and looking the better of the two teams.
But just like the bantams, they ended up in trouble as soon as the third period began.
Discipline became an issue and Alaska managed to storm all the way back thanks to three power-play goals, the final one coming after Carter Hill ended up taking a penalty for hitting from behind, and forced the game into overtime tied at 4-4. In the extra frame, Alaska’s Trevor Wagoner snuck in on the wing and stuck it past goaltender Jaden Beck for the winner and the gold ulu for Alaska.
Joel Demarcke, who played a terrific game for Team NWT, said it was a bitter pill to swallow once the game was over.
“Everyone was pretty bummed out afterward,” he said. “No one really said too much in the room after. We just kind of sat there, got undressed and the coaches didn’t say too much either. They told us they were happy with the way that we played and I thought we still played a good game, even though we didn’t win.”
As for the power-plays in the third period, Demarcke said the team took too many penalties they shouldn’t have taken.
“I don’t know if they were real penalties and I’m not blaming the referees,” he said.
Even in defeat, Demarcke said he’s happy with how he performed in what was his final AWG as a player. He’ll be too old for 2016, even though the midget hockey event is still up in the air right now due to the situation surrounding venues in Greenland.
“It sucks to win silver for the second straight time but I’m happy with it,” he said.