When Team NT lost 7-2 to Nunavut in the U19 hockey semifinals on Thursday, the boys knew what went wrong.
“Yesterday we lost as a bunch of individuals,” said Team NT coach Drew Coles after his squad bested Alberta North 5-4 in an overtime thriller for bronze Friday, Feb. 3. “It was our first game where we didn’t really show up and play for each other, and the room knew it. It wasn’t anything the coaching staff said. We went in there and we let them talk. They were already saying the right things.”
And things were different when the 16 to 18 year olds laced up the skates less than 24 hours later for the bronze ulu.
“You could just tell today when we got to the rink there was a different feeling,” said Coles. “It was loose but focused. Guys were having fun. You could tell it was unfinished business. I think losing yesterday really reminded them that it’s not an easy tournament to win, and they need to show up for one more game to get an outcome that we liked. And kudos to them, they did.”
Captain Ethan Bowerman echoed that sentiment. He said Team NT had bad starts in their games against Nunavut, but they knew they couldn’t let their fans and family down in the big Centrefire arena Friday night.
“It was crazy,” he said about the bronze game. “We were sticking to our systems, just hammering it down there.”
The best part about the team was that different players stepped up each night, added Coles.
“It’s always a great feeling to win,” the coach said. “Really, really proud of the group of guys that we had.”
Coles thanked everyone involved in organizing the Games, calling them a special experience for the players and participants. He especially thanked the NT fans.
“You know we couldn’t do it without you,” said Coles. “We heard your voices and saw the signs of love and support, and we really appreciate it.”