Kivalliq team wins Nunavut’s first territorial hockey championship for women
Nunavut’s best battle for top prize, and spots on AWG team
Team Kivalliq took the top prize in Nunavut’s first-ever women’s territorial hockey championship in Iqaluit on March 31.
The team of 13- to 18-year-olds hailing from Baker Lake and Repulse Bay proved to be the best among five teams assembled from throughout the territory, taking the final with a narrow 9-8 victory over Team Baffin.
“We just kept playing hard, shooting as much as we can,” said Mahasi Nateela of Baker Lake. The 13-year-old scored Kivalliq’s eighth goal, tying the game and keeping the team within sight of a win with less than five minutes to play.
Team captain Judy Mariq agreed, adding that their solid defense made the difference in a high-scoring game.
From the opening period, the score rarely strayed beyond a one-goal difference. It remained 8-8 until Tiffany Siusangnark of Repulse Bay netted the game-winner for Kivalliq with 50 seconds remaining.
At the final buzzer Team Kivalliq won the honour of first champions to be inscribed on the Nunavut Territorial Female Championship trophy.
Co-captains Siusangnark and Mariq were all smiles as they accepted the trophy from Hockey Nunavut registrar Glen Ullyot, following a medal presentation of gold medals to the champs and silver to Team Baffin.
Baffin, made up of girls from the communities of Qikiqtarjuaq, Igloolik, Pangnirtung, and Hall Beach, finished first in the round-robin stage of the tournament, ahead of Kivalliq, bronze medal-winner Arviat, and squads from Iqaluit and Rankin Inlet.
The territorials drew 100 players from more than 10 communities throughout Nunavut, and also served to evaluate players for selection to Team Nunavut for the 2014 Arctic Winter Games in Fairbanks, Alaska.
“Out of this tournament, we select the top 30 players,” said Mike Courtney, vice-president of Hockey Nunavut. These players – 26 skaters and 4 goalies – will be invited to a training camp in the fall, he said, where 17 of them will be chosen to represent Team Nunavut in Fairbanks.
Past selections were made from development camps limited to 100, said Courtney, which did not give evaluators a chance to see the girls play in a tournament setting. Girls’ hockey has taken big strides in Nunavut in recent years, he said, thanks to increased interest and greater opportunities to play.
From minimal girls’ enrolment in minor hockey five years ago, Nunavut now counts “more than 140 girls under 18,” said Courtney.
“Here in Iqaluit, we only started our hockey program (for girls) when the AWG arena got fixed,” he said, which was just three years ago. Until then, the only option for girls was to play minor hockey with boys. Body-checking, which starts in early teens, would discourage them from playing any further, he said.
Nunavut now has four communities with full-size teams, said Courtney. A territorial tournament is the next logical step.
“We hope that this does become an annual event,” he said.
Advances in women’s hockey both in Canada and internationally have helped, said Andrew Cox, vice president of Iqaluit Minor Hockey. Organizers of the Women’s International Championship in Ottawa this week, April 2 to April 9, expect a record crowd of 200,000 spectators, according to the Globe and Mail.
“They’ve been pushing for female hockey all across Canada,” said Cox. This has opened the door to increased funding for programs.
“We’ve pushed for it here, and it’s been amazing for us.”