By Sam Laskaris
Troy Lajeunesse had a rollercoaster week at the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships.
The 15-year-old centre, from Dokis First Nation, was a member of the Ontario boys’ squad that brought home silver medals from tournament, which concluded May 4th in Kahnawake, Que.
After losing all three of their round-robin matches, Lajeunesse and his teammates proceeded to win their next two outings to advance to the gold-medal game, but lost 5-3 to British Columbia in the championship game.
“It was one of the biggest highlights of my career so far,” said Lajeunesse, who led the Ontario side in scoring with five goals and three assists in six games.
Besides being chosen as his team’s most valuable player in the gold-medal final, Lajeunesse was also named to the tournament’s first-team all-star squad.
And he also earned an invitation to audition this summer as one of the participants for the second season of “Hit the Ice”, a hockey series aired on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.
Lajeunesse spent the past hockey season with the Kitchener Jr. Rangers’ minor midget team. He’s hoping to move up and play in the junior ranks next season.
“I think it gave me a lot of exposure,” Lajeunesse said of the national Aboriginal tournament, adding some scouts from American junior franchises were among those praising his efforts.
Ontario coach Aaron Wesley spoke highly of his play.
“I was very impressed with his skating, and he always competed, even during times when we were down early in the tourney,” Wesley said.
A total of 16 clubs (eight male, eight female) participated at the national tournament for teenage players.
Besides Lajeunesse, the Ontario boys’ entry included five other Anishinabek players. They were Dylan Callaghan (Sheshegwaning), James Restoule (Dokis), Brendan Pheasant (Wikwemikong), Nevada Waindubence (Sheguiandah) and Dalton Demeran (Fort William).
Denis Commanda, Nipissing First Nation, was the squad’s assistant coach.
Alberta doubled Manitoba 6-3 in the boys’ bronze-medal game.
The Ontario girls’ team, which included nine Anishinabek players, just missed out on a medal, losing 6-5 to Manitoba in its bronze-medal contest. The Quebec-based team called Eastern Door and the North won the girls’ crown, edging Saskatchewan 4-3 in the gold-medal match.
Ontario’s entry included Jamie Sabourin (Pic Mobert), Rikki Restoule (Dokis), Presley Young (Nipissing), Amber Lewis (Wikwemikong), Kierstin Williams (Garden River), Jess Wakefield (Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point), Deidre Debassige (M’Chigeeng), Sage Laliberte (Chippewas of Thames) and Emily Decock (Alderville).
Team staff included general manager Glordia Hendrick-Laliberte (Chippewas of Thames), assistant coach Karen Bell (Garden River) and trainer Allysha Wassigijig (Wikwemikong).
The NAHC Tournament features elite Bantam and Midget aged male and female athletes from First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities from every province and territory. While serving as a premier competition for minor level hockey, the Championships also promote a healthy active lifestyle and celebrate the athletic abilities of our youth.