Iqaluit Blizzard wins championship after thriller final
“We showed them that we play really well”
Just last week the Iqaluit Blizzard bantam hockey team flew to Ontario for a tournament that many believed they could never win.
But opinions quickly changed and the Blizzard made believers out of everyone.
Iqaluit breezed through the round robin stage in their category, and the playoffs, to reach the final for the 40th Gloucester Cougar Cup in the bantam “B” house division.
“I guess a lot of people didn’t expect us to do that well and they wanted to go see how we played. We showed them that we play really well,” said Blizzard team captain, Kevin Kullualik.
Like a scene from a Mighty Ducks movie, Iqaluit was down 1-0 after the first period of the final against a team from Ottawa East, when the Ontario crowd started cheering for Iqaluit.
“A lot of Ottawa fans were cheering for us, and players from other teams that didn’t make the playoffs were behind our bench,” the president of the Iqaluit Amateur Hockey Association and head coach Patrick McDermott said.
But the team had to dig deep to find a way to win.
“When we had a goal against us, the team kind of reverted to people trying to… they wanted to score a goal so bad that they got away from our passing game,” McDermott said.
In the second period, McDermott said the team clawed their way back, despite a few adversities — mostly refereeing decisions.
“There were a fair amount of calls against us that put our players in the penalty box, and we played short-handed a bit in that third period,” McDermott said.
After some back-and-forth scoring, the Blizzard notched the go-ahead goal, and it was 3-2 for Iqaluit.
And with just three minutes left in the game, an empty net goal clinched the cup and the Blizzard became champions.
Kullualik, who is also selected to play for Nunavut’s bantam team at the Arctic Winter Games in Fairbanks Alaska in March, said tournaments like the Cougar Cup make him a better player.
“It kind of motivates me,” Kullualik said.
The bantam team isn’t the only Iqaluit team to make waves at tournaments in the South.
The Iqaluit Blizzard midget hockey team competed in the Don Montgomery Memorial house division hockey tournament in Scarborough last weekend, and an atom and peewee team went to the Bell Capital Cup in Ottawa two weeks ago.
The midget team advanced to the finals of the Scarborough tournament after going undefeated in the round robin, but fell 5-1 to a team from Vaughan, Ont. to finish second.
“We did awesome until the finals,” Robert Ikkidluak said, a right winger on the team.
“We were all too excited for it, but overall it was awesome,” Ikkidluak said.
And the atom team made it to the playoffs of the Bell Capital Cup in the house ‘B’ division, but fell 7-3 to the Kemptville Panthers, who went on to finish second.
“We won quite handily in the first two games. The team we lost to in the playoffs is the team that went onto the finals,” McDermott said, who is also the head coach for the atom team.
McDermott praised the work of atom player Bradley Fraser, who notched an impressive 15 goals in four games for the Blizzard.
In all, McDermott thinks travelling for tournaments helps Iqaluit’s best players get even better.
“For me it’s always about moving forward, where can we improve next. And that’s the name of the game. From the tournaments we host, to the tournaments we go to,” McDermott said.
“It’s about being a part of something that’s larger. And there’s so much that’s gained from the experience, if [the] kids even win or not,” McDermott said.