Lac Seul Eagles win third straight title
The Northern First Nations Hockey Tournament ended early last weekend but not just because it featured fewer teams than usual.
Seventeen teams entered the Sioux Lookout tournament this year, down from the normal 32 because of a competing Northern Bands tournament in Dryden.
Still, matchups for the Sioux tournament’s grand finale – Saturday instead of Sunday, with the lower number of teams – had fans as excited as ever.
After all, both the A- and B-side championship games featured rematches of two of the best preliminary games played earlier in the March break week.
Hudson Bay Cree, representing Fort Severn, had outgunned Kingfisher Lake 8-6 on Tuesday and would now meet them again in the B-final.
The Lac Seul Eagles, meanwhile, had edged the Bushtown Jets from Eabametoong 3-1 in the feature game Wednesday night. Now they would faceoff to decide the A-championship, just as Jets forward Kurt Atlookan had predicted, or at least hoped for. “This was just a preview,” he said as he left the ice after the first encounter, which had been deadlocked at one goal apiece most of the way. Lac Seul’s Ryan Crane and Colin Shawinimash of the Jets offset that game’s frantic tempo and frequent scoring chances with spectacular goaltending.
Sackaney hat tricks
First up Saturday morning, though, were the Cree and Flyers. Right from start, the Flyers played like they’d stayed up too late the night before, always a step slow and often leaving Hudson Bay shooters open in the slot. Defenceman Jarrid Sackaney, Cree captain, found the net twice with rocketing slapshots, leading his team to a 4-1 first period lead.
Back in his hometown in Moosonee, “Everybody is scared of his shot,” Jarrid’s dad Leon said after the game. “Him and his brother (teammate Sheldon Sackaney) always rent the ice for themselves and Sheldon passes him the puck so he can one-time it.”
Kingfisher was even slow returning from the dressing room after the first intermission.
When play resumed, Jarrid Sackaney quickly scored his hat-trick goal, this time on a solo rush.
As was the case throughout the tournament, Hudson Bay’s key offensive players – the Sackaneys, along with Richard Solomon and Waylon Linklater – rarely left the ice.
They turned the second period into a clinic of puck handling, passing and shooting, while running the score up to 9-1. That ended the game early, as the tournament’s eight-goal mercy rule took effect.
Sheldon Sackaney scored the game’s last three goals and recorded seven points; Solomon picked up five assists; and Linklater added two goals and an assist.
Ronnie Sainnawap scored Kingfisher’s lone goal.
The Cree were gracious in victory, inviting the Flyers to join them for a group photo of both teams.
The A-side final began with another gracious gesture. Bushtown players crossed to the Eagles blue line to shake rival hands after a moment of silence for long-time Lac Seul hockey fan Leo Binguis Sr., who passed away Friday night.
“He was always here during our tournaments watching hockey,” noted Margaret Kenequanash, co-ordinator of the annual event.
The Eagles, two-time defending tournament champions, wore black ribbon on their jersey sleeves in memory of Binguis.
After a cautious start, Clint Atlookan scored two Jet goals, sandwiching a shorthanded Eagles marker by Jeff Schenderling.
A turning point came, however, with Bushtown up 3-2 early in the second period and Lac Seul player going hard to the Jets net. The collision that resulted left Shawinimash with an apparent back injury, stopping play.
“I don’t know what it was, an elbow or a knee (that hit me),” he explained later. “The shock went right down my back.”
Shawinimash stayed in the game but momentum shifted when Eagles forward Kyler Ackewance fired a loose puck behind him to even the score.
Soon after, the Bushtown goaltender went down again. When the whistle blew, he removed his mask and clenched his teeth while lying on his back. Teammates eventually helped him from the ice.
His backup, Elmer Slipperjack, came cold off the bench into the heated contest, and was beaten by the first shot he faced, a high glove-side slapper by Jeremy Schenderling.
Things got even worse for the Jets when captain Leo Atlookan slowly collapsed to the ice away from the play. The big defenceman laid face down, motionless, and was covered with a blanket before teammates also helped him off the ice. Atlookan was taken to hospital, with some on the Bushtown bench speculating he had a broken rib.
When play resumed, Ackewance struck again, putting the Eagles up 5-3 with a shorthanded goal when Slipperjack couldn’t control a rebound.
By the time Slipperjack had played long enough to find his form, the game was far out of reach for the Jets.
Remarkably, the second championship game of the day ended the same way as the first, by mercy rule, with the Eagles up 11-3.
Jeremy Schenderling collected a game-high six points for Lac Seul – three goals and the same number of assists. Clinton Kejick matched linemate Ackewance’s two goals and added two assists.
Bushtown’s injuries aside, “I think them running two lines as opposed to us running four lines, and keeping all our lines rolling, really tired them out,” Kejick said of Lac Seul’s success. “You need more than just two lines to compete in this tournament.”
This third straight Eagles championship matches their run of consecutive titles from 2004 to 2006.
Email to a Friend
add to del.icio.us