Rankin Rock A got past a spirited Arviat Wolves squad 10-6 to claim the 2018 Arctic Atoms title in Rankin Inlet on Feb. 4.
The tourney also featured the first all-girls team to compete (Rock Girls), and the Rock Novice and Rock B teams, as well as Naujaat, Coral Harbour and Baker Lake.
Organizer David Clark said the tourney went exceptionally well.
He said it was important to have four Rankin teams take part.
“It meant a lot to these kids because our minor hockey numbers are so high in Rankin Inlet,” said Clark.
“It was really good to see a full girl’s atoms team in the tournament, and it was very exciting for them.
“I’m blown away by the number of girls playing hockey nowadays, and it’s great for our program for them to be able to compete with their own team.
“From speaking with some of the individuals on the team, they had way more fun without the boys around.”
Clark said the level of hockey being played at the Arctic Atoms is getting better, although the goaltending was not particularly strong this year.
He said the kids are getting more used to the structure of the tournaments and the rules they have to abide by.
“There were lots of goals scored in the final game, and there were some highly-skilled players out there who are ready to take the next step to peewee.
“We have a number of kids who know how to put the puck in the net, so the future is looking bright for our program.”
Big crowds were the norm during the three-day event, with a 9 a.m. round-robin game between Coral Harbour and Rock A having the arena more than half full on Feb. 3.
Clark said the Junior Canucks team that will travel to Manitoba was also selected during the tournament.
He said those developing the Junior Canucks program are learning as they go, and there’s an air of excitement surrounding it all.
“The kids selected were very excited, but as I told them and their parents the real work just starts now.
“I’m looking forward to working with these kids and their parents moving forward.”
Clark said the numerous tournaments held in Rankin during a two-month period this time of year are a lifeline for the business community.
He said he would love to see the actual numbers of the economic boost given to the community.
“Our business owners will tell you their eyes light up when they see a tournament come to town because they know it’s going to be a busy weekend.
“You have vehicles being rented, hotel rooms being booked, people spending money at the stores and restaurants, and the airlines making good money flying teams into Rankin.
“I wish I had the time and resources for an in-depth study on how much money these tournaments bring into our community on a weekly basis.
“We have strong corporate support and, as a bright woman once told me, people like getting attached to successful things, so when you have a successful event people want their name to be a part of it.”
Alfred Voisey coached the Rock A team with Darren Ikakhik, and he said overall the tournament featured a lot of close games. He said he had a feeling during round-robin play that his team would meet Arviat in the final.
“They had some good players and they were awful big boys compared to our players,” said Voisey.
“They had a really big team this year.
“But since the beginning of the year I’ve been trying to teach our players to play as a team, and what it takes to earn a tournament ‘W’.
“I’d say it was our teamwork and our players working so hard that got us the championship.”
Voisey said the kids loved the large crowds and approached the games like little professionals. He said they kept their cool and didn’t allow themselves to get overexcited by the noise level in the building.
“The Arctic Atoms means a lot to these kids, especially the ones moving up to peewee because they have to start knowing what it takes to be a hockey player and a good teammate now as they go to the next level.
“They were excited about the tournament for the past month and just kept working harder and harder every practice.
“I found it a little difficult having to select the A team with so many of the kids trying so hard to make it, but they were all just really happy to be playing in the tournament so that made it easier.
“This is my first year coaching and I found it tough in the beginning, but it felt better as I got used to it and I’m planning to stick with it.”