By Sam Laskaris
MISSISSAUGA—The Chippewas-Muncey-Oneida Riverhawks steamrolled over all of their opponents at the Little Native Hockey League tournament and captured top honours in the Tyke boys’ recreational division.
The CMO squad featured players from three First Nations: Chippewas of the Thames, Munsee Delaware Nation and Oneida Nation of the Thames.
The Riverhawks won all five of their matches at the tournament, more commonly referred to as the Little NHL. The CMO club defeated Walpole Island 15-5 in its final, held this past Thursday in Mississauga. The Riverhawks outscored their opponents by a whopping 87-26 count in their five games.
“It was kind of a big surprise for us,” said Murray Kechego, who aside from serving as an assistant coach was also the CMO trainer.
When the Riverhawks were formed this past fall, team officials opted to enter the recreational division for the Little NHL since more than half of the team’s players were new to the sport.
“We started practising in October,” Kechego said. “We practiced for an hour every Sunday and then we also tried to schedule as many exhibition games as we could.”
As it turned out, a number of the Riverhawks made giant strides during the season.
“Three of our players really developed,” Kechego said. “It seemed like it was overnight.”
The CMO squad had four individuals who handled the bulk of its scoring at the Little NHL. They included: Ryder Doxtator, Raleigh Grosbeck, Alexandra Albert, and Kechego’s son, Matthew.
“I would have to estimate they scored 90-95 per cent of our goals for us,” Kechego said of this quartet.
Though they were participating in the boys’ division, the Riverhawks iced a co-ed roster. Of the 12 players in their lineup, five were girls.
A total of 26 squads were entered in the Tyke recreational division. Clubs were seeded after playing two games each.
After registering convincing 18-0 and 17-7 victories in their opening two matches against Nipissing and Aamjiwnaang, the Riverhawks were awarded the Number 2 seed and given a bye into the quarter-finals.
After a day off thanks to its bye, the CMO club continued to down its rivals by lopsided scores, posting a 20-8 triumph in its quarter-final against a separate Oneida Nation of the Thames entry and a 17-6 victory over Curve Lake in its semi-final.
Kechego said his squad entered the tournament expecting to face some stiff challenges.
“I don’t think by any means we felt we were destined to be the champions,” he said. “I felt we were going to run into some competition.”
The Tyke division featured players aged 4-6.
“The majority of our players were five and six,” Kechego said. “But we did have a couple of four-year-olds as well.”
Five of the players in the Riverhawks’ lineup were making their Little NHL debuts.
Kechego, who was a goalie, won two tournament titles during his playing days.
This year marked the 46th running of the Little NHL. A record 204 clubs took part in the event, which was hosted by the Moose Cree First Nation.
2017 LITTLE NHL CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES
Tyke Recreational – CMO Riverhawks 15 Walpole Island 5
Tyke Competitive – Akwesasne 14 Garden River 6
Novice Recreational – Akwesasne 5 Lake Helen Jr. Braves 3
Novice Competitive – Moose Cree 5 CMO United 4
Atom Recreational – Kettle and Stony Point 8 Nipissing 5
Atom Competitive – Batchewana 5 Wiky Hillbillies 1
Peewee Recreational – Ginoogaming 6 NWO Eagles 3
Peewee Competitive – AOK Eagles 4 Akwesasne 2
Bantam Recreational – Chippewas of Rama 6 Akwesasne 0
Bantam Competitive – Six Nations 6 Chippewas of the Thames 1
Midget Recreational – Rama 2 Kashechewan 1
Midget Competitive – Nipissing 3 Wiky Prospects 2
NOVICE – Curve Lake 4 Moose Cree 1
PEEWEE – Serpent River 2 Wiky Hawks 1
ATOM – Delaware 2 Akwesasne 1
BANTAM – Batchewana 1 Akwesasne 0
MIDGET – Nipissing 7 Whitefish River 1