Bolstered with seven players from the Kivalliq region, Team Canadrill defeated a combined Rankin-Ottawa squad 4-3 in the final game to claim the 2019 Toonyk Time Cup senior men's hockey championship in Iqaluit on April 14.
Representing the Kivalliq on Team Canadrill were Keith (Butchy) Sigurdson, Roger Tagoona, Wendel Kaludjak, David Clark, Pujjuut Kusugak and Qaritaq Kusugak-Clark of Rankin Inlet and Roy (Hollywood) Kopak of Naujaat. Cody Dean of Iqaluit, is also originally from Rankin.
Pujjuut said most of the core players on the team returned this year for Canadrill's third straight championship at the event.
He said it was nice to pick-up a couple of younger players this tournament, especially since the Canadrill team only had one true defenceman in Kopak.
“We made some adjustments along the way and things worked-out for us this time,” said Pujjuut.
“The final game was a really hard-fought one, with the Rankin-Ottawa goalie playing amazing between the pipes.
“They put on a real push in the final two minutes, which made the final even more exciting for the fans.
“So, for two years in a row now, we've been in a wicked final game in Iqaluit.”
The Rankin-Ottawa team struggled a bit finding their game during the round robin, but came together at the right time to beat a young Iqaluit team on their way to the finals, while Canadrill took out Iqaluit's QC Avalanche to reach the championship game.
Pujjuut said all in all, the Toonyk Tyme Cup was a good weekend of hockey.
He said the overall level of competition dropped just a bit in the past two years, due to teams not being able to make it to Iqaluit.
“There wasn't one team from Northern Quebec this year, which made things feel a lot different because there's usually at least two at the event.
“Also, in other years, Rankin brought a full team and the combined Naujaat-Arviat team was here. Bake Lake was even here in the B Division this past year, so those teams were missed.
“The cost of travel has a lot to do with it, and, also, the lack of fundraising efforts in some communities is another reason some teams don't make it every year.”
Pujjuut said the number of regional tournaments now being played makes teams from some communities have to choose which ones they're going to attend.
He said in the Kivalliq, no community would risk missing the Terence Tootoo Memorial (TTM) tourney in Rankin Inlet by using all their resources to attend an event in another community.
He said, in his opinion, the TTM is the biggest senior men's hockey tournament in Nunavut right now.
“The TTM is something else and a tough tournament to beat.
“It was made even more special this year by Jordin (Tootoo) coming home to play in it and the fact it was the last major tournament to be played in Rankin at the old barn.”
Pujjuut said he'd love to see Canadrill keep its core players together, at least until their winning streak at Toonyk Tyme is snapped.
He said there are special memories to be taken from every championship run.
“This one was really special for David Clark and myself, because my son, Qaritaq, got to play with us in it.
“It was really nice to have him home and win this tournament with him.
“It was a great weekend together that I'll remember for a very long time.”