Team Ontario boys nab silver

Joey Payeur

The outcomes for local players competing at the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships in Cowichan, B.C. this past week each had an element of oh-so-close.
For defenceman Izzy Smith (Couchiching), what nearly was a golden week ended with a silver medal as Team Ontario lost 6-5 in overtime to Manitoba in the final of the boys’ division.
Ontario trailed 3-0 in the first period, motored back to lead 5-4 in the third, then gave up the tying goal with just 1:10 left in regulation before Justin Nachbaur scored the overtime winner at 13:25.
Smith finished the tournament without a point in six games as Ontario went 3-1 to finish second in its pool.
The squad then dumped Team North 8-2 in the quarter-finals and previously undefeated B.C. 5-0 in the semi-finals after having lost 4-2 to B.C. in pool play.
In the girls’ division, local residents Annalise (CC) Hayes and Makenna Henttonen, representing Couchiching and Onigaming, respectively, helped Ontario go 3-1 in its pool to wind up second.
That put them in the quarter-finals against Saskatchewan, where Ontario led 2-1 in the third before things went sour.
First, Hayes was taken off her feet in the offensive zone and then pushed down from behind shortly after getting up.
With no penalty called on either play, Saskatchewan broke out of the zone and Rheanne Peigan ended up ripping a long shot past Ontario goalie Cailen Hanzlik with 4:40 left in regulation to tie the score.
“That game was kind of hard on me,” said Hayes.
“The ref was right there but I’m used to that type of play,” she noted.
To make matters worse, less than two minutes later, Hayes had to sweat it out in the penalty box after taking a tripping penalty when she dove from behind to try and knock the puck off an opponent’s stick.
“There wasn’t much I could do in that situation–it wasn’t a lazy penalty and it wasn’t a good call in my perspective,” she remarked.
“There’s a bunch of talented girls and I had confidence in my team [to kill the penalty].”
At 5:38 of overtime, a quick shot from the slot by Alyssa Roach ended Ontario’s dreams of gold.
“Our defence was out of position and the girl just kind of pushed the puck in from the slot,” Henttonen recounted.
“It’s a tough way to lose but in the end, we all had fun.
“Our goalie had a great game and she can’t stop them all,” Hayes said in defence of Hanzlik.
“It happens but I still don’t like losing.”
Ontario then finished the week with a 5-2 loss to Team Atlantic in a game to help determine the rankings for next year’s tournament in Nova Scotia.
“It was a great experience,” said Henttonen.
“I’ve never really been in that kind of hockey and it was good to see what it was like.”
Hayes agreed.
“I loved playing with new girls and making new friends,” said the scoring leader for the Muskie girls’ hockey squad the past three seasons.
“One of my favourite things about the game is the people you meet and the places that it takes you.”
Henttonen and Hayes were in the role of outsiders on the roster, with Henttonen noting most of the team has played together before.
“It was hard at first,” the 16-year-old forward admitted. “But once we got past the first few days and were more involved with the team, it was fine.
“I think for not playing together before the tournament, we did well,” echoed Hayes.
“Some chemistry worked and some didn’t, but that’s expected,” she reasoned.
“It’s all a good learning experience and playing with new people is always fun.”
Henttonen’s only regret was an unfortunate mishap that cost her the chance to play against Team Atlantic during pool play.
“All the Team Ontario hockey bags look the same on the outside, and everyone was suppose to grab a bag at the hotel and load up the bus,” she explained.
“One of the players was lazy, though, and didn’t take one at all and that ended up being my bag.
“The hotel was a half-hour away from the rink, so there was no point in getting it because I wouldn’t have been back until at least the second period,” Henttonen added.
“But to be fair, we all got up pretty early and had to be on the bus for 6 a.m. that morning.”