Yellowknife Peewee hockey team celebrates winning streak at B.C. tournament
'I was overwhelmed at the hospitality and the level of hockey that was here,' says Yellowknife coach
They went to the tournament expecting not to win a game — but they ended up on an unbeaten run to the final.
The Yellowknife Wolfpack Peewee team was one of only seven teams selected from more than 40 applicants to attend the Vernon Coca-Cola Classic Invitational hockey tournament last weekend in Vernon, B.C.
"I said, 'We're a very respectful team, and we may come to your tournament and not win a hockey game,'" said Brad Anstey, the team's coach. "'But every team that plays against us will earn their win.'"
The tournament brought teams from as far away as San Diego, Calif., to compete against the local Vernon Watkin Motors Mustangs.
The Wolfpack racked up 38 goals over five games, including a 10-1 victory over the Calgary Warriors, before losing the final to the Mustangs.
Wolfpack goalie Jamie Cluff was one of only a few girls at the coed tournament.
"My team doesn't really think of me as my gender," said 12-year-old Cluff. "I'm playing in my favourite sport and [I am] just trying hard, trying my best."
Cluff will next play at the Arctic Winter Games, representing the Northwest Territories on the junior women's team. She received special permission to participate because of her age.
Coach Anstey says attending invitationals like the Classic are a boon for player development.
"Getting to hockey tournaments like this is phenomenal for our kids," said Anstey. "This allows them to see the fruits of all their hard work, and play for something."
In the 47 years since the tournament's founding, it was the first time the Yellowknife Wolfpack attended.
"I was overwhelmed at the hospitality and the level of hockey that was here," said Anstey.
Despite not taking home the trophy, both Anstey and Cluff are proud of the team's performance.
"Our team worked together, and we had a good finish," said Cluff.
"I've never seen a team come out of Yellowknife… to come down and play against Tier 1 hockey teams and do as well as they did," said Anstey.
"It was phenomenal to watch."
- A previous version of this story stated that the tournament has been running for 34 years. In fact, it is 47 years.Feb 13, 2018 4:44 PM CT