PORT HARDY— The Courtenay Whalers took the top spot in the Port Hardy Wild women’s hockey tournament this weekend by the closest of margins after a thrilling final against the Port Hardy Juiceheads needed a shootout to divide the teams.
In all, six teams took to the ice over the weekend, with Wild and the Juiceheads on home ice, Downpour and Ice Storm from Port McNeill, Black Ice from Nanaimo, and the Whalers, who traveled from Courtenay for the tournament.
The teams each played three games over Friday and Saturday to determine places for Sunday’s playoff games.
The early game on Sunday pitted the two Port mcNeill teams against each other to determine fifth and sixth standings with Downpour coming out victorious.
Hosts Wild had a rematch with Black Ice to decide third after beating the Nanaimo team during Saturday’s group matches. Black Ice got revenge in the rematch, convincingly beating the hosts to take third place.
The final was a much closer affair, with the Juiceheads and Whalers facing off after both teams went unbeaten in the group stage.
The first period ended scoreless with the Juiceheads having long periods of pressure in front of the Black Ice goal. The Nanaimo team were able to soak it up however, and looked dangerous on the counter.
By a minute into the second period it seemed clear that both coaches had instructed their teams to be more assertive on the ice, with each team picking up a penalty in the early stages.
The period continued in a similar vein to the first, Juiceheads setting up camp in Black Ice’s zone and the Nanaimo team quick on the break. Black Ice were able to exert more of their own pressure as the period went on, but both keepers performed heroics to keep the game scoreless, stopping multiple one-on-one chances and soaking up periods of pressure.
The game got its first score with four minutes left on the clock in the second. The Juiceheads’ Shelby Schnurr was called for goalie interference and took a seat in the penalty box with 4:20 on the clock.
The short-handed Juiceheads pushed forward again on the restart and a shot from Emily Heavenor found the back of the net off of Terri McLaughlin’s pass to put the crowd on their feet and the home team ahead.
The home side continued to press as they returned to full strength, but Black Ice were able to level the scores with a minute left on the clock. Lynn Slaby broke with the puck from her own blue line ahead of the chasing Juiceheads’ defence and slotted the puck past Sarah Case to even the score.
The third period was unable to separate the teams, with both sides controlling the puck to create chances, but a combination of great goalkeeping and, on occasion, luck kept the scores the same.
Black Ice came closest to scoring when Slaby’s shot beat Case only to hit the post, cross the goal line behind Case’s skates, hit the other upright and come back into play.
With nothing separating the sides after normal play, a five-minute overtime was put on the scoreboard. If it had been a little longer the Juiceheads may well have won as the overtime was all one way, the puck barely leaving the Black Ice zone.
As it was, the Nanaimo side were able to hold out for a shootout, where again the goalies made their presences felt.
Case saved the first attempt from the Black Ice’s Slaby, before her opposite number, Nancy Shields stopped Heavenor’s effort.
The next round both teams scored, then both keepers saved on the third round.
The fourth proved the decider as the Black Ice’s Tamara Berger scored before Sheilds stopped Kelly McLaughlin’s effort for the home side.
Both sides got a well-deserved ovation for their efforts.