By Sam Laskaris
BRITISH COLUMBIA—A half dozen Anishinabek players returned home with hardware from this year’s National Aboriginal Hockey Championships (NAHC) in Cowichan, Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
The Ontario boys’ squad placed second in their division of the tournament, gaining them the silver medals, though they came so close to winning gold.
Manitoba claimed victory on Ontario 6-5 in overtime in the boys’ championship final at this year’s tournament, which concluded on Saturday.
The Anishininabek contingent on the Ontario roster included two players from Nipissing First Nation, forwards Will Michaud and Emile Cyr. While the defencemen roster included Braydon Crowe (Alderville First Nation) and Dawson Nootchtai (Atikameksheng Anishnawbek First Nation). Others on the club’s roster included Gregory Trudeau-Paquet (Wikwemikong First Nation) and Hunter Chiblow (Mississauga First Nation).
Michaud, who spent the 2016-17 season with the French River Rapids of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League, was still feeling the loss on Monday, a day after flying home from B.C.
“I’m kind of bummed out,” he said whether he was content with winning silver. “It should be gold.”
Michaud and his Ontario teammates got off to a slow start in the gold-medal match, falling behind 3-0 in the opening period.
“I think we came in a little too confident after beating B.C. in the semis,” Michaud said.
Ontario registered a convincing 5-0 triumph over B.C., a team that won the gold medal at the 2016 NAHC, in its semi-final outing.
“Everybody was saying [not to be overconfident] in the final,” Michaud said. “But I guess it didn’t really sink in. We hit a couple of posts early in the game and we were all over them, but we laid back.”
The Ontario club did manage to rebound from its three-goal deficit by scoring twice in the second period.
Ontario even managed to take a 5-4 lead in the third period. But Manitoba netted the game-tying goal with just 70 seconds remaining in the third period to force overtime.
Manitoba then sniped the winner in the 14th minute of OT.
Trudeau-Paquet was one of the top offensive performers in the tournament. He racked up a dozen points (six goals and six assists) in six matches and finished second in team scoring and with the third most points in the tournament.
Michaud chipped in offensively with five points, including three goals, while Crowe earned four points, all assists.
As for the other Anishinabek players on the club, Cyr netted a pair of goals and Nootchai had an assist.
Meanwhile, the Ontario girls’ squad, which included five Anishinabek players, had their quest for a medal come to an end following a 3-2 loss against Saskatchewan in a quarter-final contest.
Ontario played once more after that, losing 5-2 versus Team Atlantic, in a game which decided fifth and sixth place in the final standings.
Ontario’s roster included two players from Nipissing First Nation, forward Lily George and goalie Cailen Hanzlik.
George led the team in scoring with 10 points in five games while Hanzlik played three games between the pipes.
Also on the team were forwards Melanie Young (Dokis First Nation) and Patty Huff-Henry (Chippewas of the Thames First Nation), and Britney Zack (Garden River First Nation), who played defence.