For the first time in the 31-year history of the CREE Senior Hockey and Broomball Tournament, two non-Native teams faced off in the tournament’s Class A hockey final. After posting identical records of 3-0 with 13 goals for and 3 goals against, Team Val-d’Or and Bar Chez Frid of Amos each won close games against the Wemindji Wolves and Waswanipi Chiefs respectively, to earn a berth in the final.
After opening the scoring and tallying the winning goal, Gabriel Côté won MVP honours leading Bar Chez Frid to their first Class A championship, as they dumped their Route 117 rivals by a score of 3-1.
In addition to a Class A championship, Bar Chez Frid dominated the individual awards as Raphael Woodbury picked up Best Forward and Top Scorer honours, and Adam Morneau was selected as the Class A’s Top Goalie. The Class A Best Defence award went to Joel Frechette of Team Val-d’Or.
“It’s a very big tournament and we really enjoyed our time here,” said Pierre-Charles Crépeault, captain of Bar Chez Frid and a tutor at Polyvalente de la Forêt, where he provides academic guidance to students playing for the Amos Forestiers, including young Cree players past and present like Alexander Hester, his brother Brett, Silas Neeposh and Deverick Ottereyes.
“It is our third time here and it’s very good hockey and a lot of fun. It’s great to have non-Native teams in this tournament because it brings our communities together with the Cree people,” continued Crépeault, who hopes the tournament will one day take place in his hometown of Amos.
While the Class A hockey division is considered the highlight of the tournament, it was Women’s Hockey and Broomball that produced the most exciting finishes this year.
Women’s Hockey saw Team Pikogan meet the Mistissini Mustangs in an exciting final. Each team exchanged goals, entering the third period tied 2-2. Team Pikogan briefly took the lead in the third on a goal by Alex-Sandra Baril, but the Mustangs responded with a goal by Courtney Neeposh with just over two minutes remaining. It appeared that the ladies would settle the final in overtime when Wabaguin Longchap took a pass from Helen Gunner and scored the winning goal with less than seven seconds remaining in the game.
Longchap, who has also represented Eastern Door & the North at the National Aboriginal Hockey Championship, took home both MVP and Top Scorer awards for the tournament.
Neeposh, who also scored two goals in the final, was honoured as Best Forward, while fellow Mustang Wapikun Coonishish was named Best Goalie. Noka Kistabish of Team Pikogan picked up the Best Defense award.
The final of the Women’s Broomball-Open division also produced a thriller as the Wemindji Ice Stars and Chisasibi North Stars needed overtime to determine a champion. Despite being badly outplayed by Wemindji, the North Stars had a chance to win as a result of the outstanding play of goaltender Amy Diamond. Displaying the positioning and athleticism of a hockey goaltender, Diamond denied the Ice Stars again and again before giving up the winning goal three and a half minutes into the overtime period. For her efforts, Diamond was named Best Goalie and many believe she should have also earned MVP honours even though the North Stars failed to win the championship.
The MVP award went to Monica Visitor of Wemindji, while her teammate Stephanie Asquabanskum was named Best Forward. Chisasibi’s Catherine Washpabano was named Best Defense and Micheline Saganash of the Waswanipi Eagles was the tourney’s Top Scorer.
The Women’s Broomball 30+ final saw two undefeated teams meet. Again, the Broomball final went to overtime before Shirley Chiskamish of Team Chisasibi settled things with a goal 7:31 into the extra frame, earning her MVP honours.
The Class B-1 Hockey Final included some familiar faces as the Mistissini Chummies battled the Lac Simon Beavers for the championship banner. Most CREE Senior Hockey Tourney fans will recognize the core of the Chummies lineup as the same group of players that were part of the Mistissini Trappers’ squad that dominated the Class A division over the last decade. Fans in attendance could be forgiven for showing their concern for the former Class A champs when they fell behind early to Lac Simon, one of the few Algonquin entries in the tourney. But Titus Metabie would score late in the 1st and early in the 3rd to carry the Chummies to the Class B-1 championship.
If there was an award for Most Class Displayed by a Finalist Team, it would have to go to Lac Simon, as the Beavers stayed on the ice following the presentation of the championship banner and the Chummies’ victory lap to salute the champs with their sticks raised high as the Chummies left the ice.
Metabie was named MVP, while Mistissini teammates Ben Neeposh and Eric Benac took home the Best Forward and Best Defense awards. Lac Simon’s Ben Gagné was named Best Goalie while Pikogan Mustang forward Billy Kistabish earned the nod as Best Scorer.
In the Old Timers 40+ Division, Team Moose Factory defeated the Waskaganish Big Chiefs 4-1. Despite losing by three goals, Big Chiefs’ goalie Martin Desrosiers won Best Goalie after a stellar performance in the final where he made some acrobatic saves including a memorable save with his face mask.
Lac Simon was represented in another final, but again came up short as the Eagles fell to the Waskaganish Ex-Wings in Class B-2 by a score of 4-1.
For tournament scores, stats and awards: www.tournoisenligne.ca/home.do?t=1634
Tournament Notes: Three teams were forced to pull out of the tournament as a result of the power failure that struck the communities of Wemindji and Chisasibi in the days leading up to the tournament. As members of the Canadian Rangers, a number of the players on Chisasibi Old Timers, Wemindji Old Timers and Wemindji’s B-2 hockey team were called into service to provide much-needed assistance to those who were left without power for several days. While many champions were crowned in Val-d’Or on tournament weekend, the dedication and sacrifice of these men should not be forgotten.
A number of players and organizers were honoured during the tournament’s opening ceremonies on Friday, Decemebr 9. With a number of dignitaries in attendance, including the Chiefs of several Cree communities, the deputy mayor of Val-d’Or and other politicians, the organizers of the Cree Nation Summer Games, including honourary chairman Ted Moses, were honoured for their efforts in making the Games a reality. Deputy Grand Chief Ashley Iserhoff accepted a plaque on behalf of those who have worked so hard on past games and the next one scheduled for July 2012.
Gloria Holly and Charles J. Hester were presented with plaques to commemorate their work in the development of the Cree Nation Bears hockey program.
Members of the Mistissini Trappers, who won nine Class A titles between 1999 and 2009 were also honoured. Accepting the award on behalf of all players who wore the Trapper jersey during those years were Cliff and Eric Benac, Titus Metabie, Robie Petawabano, Robie Petawabano Jr. and Ben Neeposh.