After losing in the Gold Medal Game to team Ontario South the first three years of the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships, Team Eastern Door and North (representing our Quebec region) has finally broken through defeating Team Ontario South 4-3 to win the Gold Medal in Miramichi, New Brunswick during the April 17-24 tournament. This was the fourth meeting between the two teams in the final game and the first victory for our girls.
There were nine teams at the Bantam-Midget Championships:
British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario North, Ontario South, Eastern Door and North (E.D.N.), Atlantic and Northwest Territories. Team Eastern Door and North won all seven (7) games they played defeating seven different regions (they did not play Atlantic) to capture the gold.
In the first round E.D.N. defeated Alberta 5-0 and Manitoba 6-3. In the second round E.D.N. went undefeated, beating British Columbia 13-0 and Ontario North 4-2 to end up in second place overall.
In the quarter-finals E.D.N. clearly dominated play in defeating Team Northwest Territories by a score of 9-2, setting up what appeared to be a tough semi-final against Saskatchewan (another team without a loss). The score was tied 2-2 in the second period when Saskatchewan took two undisciplined penalties. E.D.N. capitalized with two goals, closing out the period with a 6-2 lead. Team Saskatchewan fought back in the third only to come up short, with Team Eastern Door and North victorious 6-4.
This set up the finals which proved to be the match of the Championships. Back-and-forth action saw E.D.N. jump out to a 2-0 and 3-1 lead before Team Ontario South battled back tying the game 3-3 with just over 10 minutes remaining.
Jewyll Matoush from Mistissini, clearly the dominant female Aboriginal hockey player at the national level (she won Player of the Game honours in all round robin games and was named First Team All-Star for this year’s championships), set up the winning goal with a beautiful pass to Brianne Alfred (Brianne scored a hat trick in final game) as she was being hit in the corner. Joy Kitchen from Waswanipi, in her last year of eligibility, showed her unbelievable grit in playing each and every game on what was clearly a bad ankle and giving one hundred and fifty per cent each and every shift. Newcomer and future all star Carol Ann Mapachee from Mistissini started her career in the National Championships with a gold medal. Unfortunately, Carol Ann suffered a second grade concussion in Game 4.
However, she showed great team spirit on the bench and in the locker room to help lift Team Eastern Door and North the rest of the way.
Thanks are due to General Manager Peter Jacobs, my Co-Head Coach Trudy Jacobs (wife of Peter -both of Kahnawake), Assistants Harry Rice of Kahnawake and Bruno Jourdain from Uashat Mani-Utenam (the number one stat man in the game), and to Dwayne “Doc” White who has been the trainer for both male and female teams for all four National Aboriginal Hockey Championships.
The E.D.N. boys team ended up in second place after the round robin but was defeated by Bronze Medalists Saskatchewan in the quarter-finals. Waswanipi Cree Vern Cooper captured the Gold in the Male division playing for Team Ontario North, which won its second straight National Championships. Vern – a Bantam – showed he is there to stay by dominating play at this mostly midget Championships. For more information please check out www.aboriginalsportcircle.ca . Next year Eastern Door and North will be hosting the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships in the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake and surrounding Montreal region.
(Jeff Spencer is Co-Head Coach of Team Eastern Door and North Female Team, and Executive Director of First Peoples Sport and Recreation Circle of the Eastern Door and North (Provincial Sport Organization)