It was mighty close, but Team NWT pulled off a 2-1 victory over Team Nunavut in the midget boys championship showdown in Hay River on Friday night.
For most of the Northwest Territories’ team, this was a chance at redemption from two years ago when they were bantams. They lost the gold ulu game in 2016 but this time, they got the colour they wanted.
Ben Carson scored what would be the eventual game-winner in the second period. Nunavut scored late in the third period to close the gap but couldn’t find the equalizer with the goalie pulled.
Team NWT head coach Randy Caines said it was a fantastic team game all around from his bunch.
“You have to hand it to Nunavut because they came out hungry but we cranked it up,” he said. “We started out slow this week but we were improving every time. We identified the things we needed to correct, we made the adjustments and our team came together like no team I’ve seen.”
For Carson, the pain of watching from the bench with a broken wrist two years ago went away thanks to a gold ulu.
This time, he was in a different sort of discomfort.
“I was on the bench at the end of it passing out almost because I was so nervous,” he said. “I saw (Nunavut) score and I was out of my mind.”
For Nunavut, it was a bitter pill to swallow for a team that had finished first in the round-robin and came in having beaten the eventual champs, 3-2, earlier in the tournament.
Head coach Denis Lambe said all the credit goes to the winners because they worked hard but he still feels like they were the better team.
“I still think our boys are the best,” he said. “There’s a lot of passion in our locker room but give them a good night’s sleep and they’ll realize that they lived in the moment. You win some and you lose some on any given night.”
For Caines, though, this was a special moment for one god reason: the late Carl Bulger.
“A lot of these boys played on the Carl’s Rockies midget team,” he said. “I have no doubt that Carl was pulling the strings a little bit for us up there tonight.”