Stands packed with parents and students on the edge of their seats, sporting either blue and yellow or green and white, can be overwhelming for first time hockey players at the Challenge Cup in Yellowknife, but it’s one of the most exciting games of the year, says one coach.
Yellowknife’s high schools and long-time hockey rivals, Ecole St. Patrick High School and Sir John Franklin, went head to head in Yellowknife last week at the annual Wade Hamer Challenge Cup boys and girls games.
This year’s games were nail biters for players, coaches and fans with both won by only one goal, said Rob Hart, a coach for both the boys and girls St. Pat’s teams.
“It was definitely, I think, the most exciting Challenge Cup I’ve ever seen for both games put together. It was just tossed with excitement there,” he said.
The girls teams were the first to battle it out in the Ed Jeske arena. Sir John’s Falcons were favoured for the win after last year’s game ended in a clear victory, but the St. Pat’s Irish were not about to go down without a fight this year, Hart said.
The stage was set after St. Pat’s brand new goalie, Tamara Tsetta, faced off against Sir John’s assistant captain on a breakaway and managed to snatch the puck from mid air, he said.
“It just kind of set the tone; it wasn’t going to be that easy for them. First save was a big glove save on a ripper of a shot – that was a pretty good way to start the game,” Hart said.
In the end, Sir John kept up pressure on the St. Pat’s girls and won the game 3-2.
The boys were next up in the rink and it was anyone’s game, Hart said. Back and forth, each team got the upper hand as the goals climbed. St. Pat’s managed to tie it up with only a minute left, sending play into overtime where they scored again to win the game 6-5.
“All these moments of excitement – saves from goalies, defence plays – it’s a whole jumble of awesomeness,” Hart said.
“I’m just extremely proud of all the players on both sides for how they played. I think it’s just a shining example of what that day’s supposed to be: two teams of friends that for one day are rivals and are going head to head and absolutely battling it out on the ice and yet staying within limits of sportsmanship,” he said.
“They’re playing good, clean, hard, passionate hockey and giving the 1,000 or so people that are watching 80 minutes of beautiful hockey to watch.”
The Challenge Cup, which has been played every year by the two schools since 1985, wraps up the high school hockey season in Yellowknife.