If they had entered a midget team, it might have been a clean sweep.
Four Waswanipi teams in the Novice, Atom, Pee Wee and Bantam categories absolutely dominated the competition at the 10th annual Chapais Minor Hockey Invitational Tournament, held January 25-29.
“The feeling was good,” said the Novice Waswanipi Little Chiefs head coach Matt Blacksmith. “I really enjoyed it because they played as a team. We were on a winning streak so the momentum really carried us.” Blacksmith also doubles as the President of the Waswanipi Minor Sports Association.
A winning streak indeed; none of the Waswanipi teams lost a single game.
Not surprisingly, Waswanipi picked up eight individual awards for all age groups, including best defenseman, which went to Atom player Dakota Blacksmith, and Pee Wee Curtis Gull. Waswanipi also picked up best forward in all four categories and best coaching staff for Bobby Blacksmith and Willie Trapper of the Bantam Waswanipi Huskies. Best goalie went to Bantam Vince Blacksmith.
“Some people in Chapais asked why we are playing in A and we told them ‘you didn’t want us to play in double B last year, so make up your mind,’” said Little Chiefs coach Blacksmith. “I’m hoping next year to get at least three teams into double B,” he said, citing a slight difference in competition between double ‘B’ and the current calibre ‘A’ that the teams play in.
The performance in the final by the four teams was so dominating that the smallest margin of victory was by three goals. That included the Little Chiefs’ 7-0 walloping of host Chapais.
“Talent and skill and the effort of the coaches with constant practices,” is what makes Waswanipi’s minor hockey teams so strong, said Blacksmith. “Our players remained at the local level instead of going to play for teams like Chibougamau,” he added, noting that other communities get raided by bigger towns and often lose their top players.
Practice makes perfect. “We skate three times a week and every second weekend we participate in the James Bay Minor Hockey League, playing against the inland teams,” he said.
In the Midget division, Mistissini made it a Cree sweep, defeating the Oujé-Bougoumou Wolves 4-0. Waswanipi didn’t have enough time to enter into the midget category because the AA Eenouch broke up in December and it was already too late to take players from that team and register. In all, 21 teams signed up for the tourney.
The championship of the JBMHL is coming up soon and the winner of the inland division will play the winner of the coastal division sometime in March.