Manitoba successfully defended their title at the 2018 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships last weekend, winning gold for a second year in a row with a win over Ontario South in the final girls’ game.
From May 6 to 12, the Mi’kmaq community of Membertou, Nova Scotia hosted the 2018 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships, which every year features elite provincial teams made up of Bantam and Midget aged players.
Manitoba was dominant all tournament, being the only team to go unbeaten in round robin play with 7-0 wins over Alberta and Team Atlantic, a 5-2 win over Ontario North, and a 5-4 win over Ontario South.
“The first game was against Team Ontario South, who we played in the gold game, so that was a close game,” said Manitoba head coach Dale Bear, “But the girls came out strong and they knew what the level was going into the rest of the games during the week. They knew what they had to bring in order to be successful, so I give all the credit to those girls.”
Manitoba faced British Columbia in the semifinals, beating them with a convincing score of 10-1 to progress to the final game.
“[We were so successful because of] our speed,” said Manitoba forward Keyanna Lea, "But along with that our team all shared that hardworking and determination mindset and every line that stepped out onto the ice during the game, they gave us their all.”
Bear credited his team’s success to their strengths in every area, from goaltending and defence to offence.
“We had two awesome goalies, either one of them could have been starters … Our defence for us are very strong and then next year we are still going to have another strong core group. And then when we have twins [Keyanna and sister Keyara Lea] that can dominate the game the way they do, then that doesn’t hurt at all.”
The second semifinal featured Saskatchewan and Ontario South, with Ontario South beating Saskatchewan 5-3 to progress to the final against Manitoba.
Manitoba continued their dominant play in the final game, with Keyanna Lea (who led the tournament in round robin points and later was named the best forward of the tournament) and Keyara Lea both scoring in the first period to take a 2-0 lead.
Carrigan Umpherville had two goals for Manitoba and Lillian George had two goals for Ontario South, eventually making the score 4-2 in favour of Manitoba. Ontario South’s final effort was a power play goal from Ariele MacDonald in the third period, but Manitoba further secured their gold medal win with an empty net goal from Kaila Powell to make the final score 5-3.
“The girls they did pretty awesome,” said Bear, “I’m just proud of them. That’s pretty much all I can say for how focused they stayed and not being over confident and not taking anything for granted. There was definitely a little bit of pressure, but as soon as we got there it was fine, and we knew what we were up against so, we knew which teams were strong.”
For Keyanna Lea, this gold medal held special importance for her and Keyara, as this was their final year of Midget hockey.
“It’s an amazing feeling that I wish I could feel every day, but it being my last year definitely added a little bit more emotion for me,” Keyanna said of winning the gold medal, “But overall, at the end of the week I couldn’t be more proud of my teammates and being able to share that opportunity with them to play in the tournament and going to finals, and winning that was a full moment of joy.”
The bronze medal game was tight, with British Columbia looking to repeat as bronze medalists and Saskatchewan looking to still place on the podium after failing to repeat last year’s trip to the gold medal game.
Saskatchewan’s Jordyn Bear and Kyla Bear opened scoring to give their team a 2-0 lead, with British Columbia’s Camryn Scully scoring to cut their lead in half by the end of the first period. Saskatchewan’s Anna-Leise King scored the only goal of the second period.
Down 3-1, British Columbia had a huge third period, with goals from Stephanie Mclean and Jade Ridgewell to tie the game and take it to overtime. Saskatchewan would come away with the win however, with King scoring a second time to secure the bronze medal for her team.
More information about the 2018 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships can be found at: http://nahcmembertou.com
Photos credit of Membertou Sport and Wellness Centre.