By Carter Brooks
Photo courtesy of the NAHC
The 2019 National Aboriginal Hockey Championship came to a close Sunday evening from Whitehorse, YT., and Manitoba was the big winner.
Despite only lacing two teams - a male and a female team - the Manitobans walked away from the 2019 running of the NAHC with three medals: gold, silver and bronze. The females earned a silver medal in the final, while the males won both the bronze and the gold medal games.
Yes, you read that correctly.
The women's team paved an easy path to the final following rather lopsided victories over Alberta, New Brunswick and Ontario. However, in the gold medal game, the female Manitoban team was outplayed by a dominant Saskatchewan team that had only given up one goal all tournament. Manitoba lost the game 4-1.
The men's side of things is where it gets tricky.
Entering the semi-final with a 3-1 record, the men's team lost a close battle with the Albertans 6-4, sending the boys in yellow and black to a bronze medal showdown with British Columbia. The Manitobans prevailed, earning a 5-3 victory in the process, snagging the bronze medal. But they weren't done there.
With the male Saskatchewan team also in the gold medal game and set to face-off against the Albertans, the NAHC tournament organizers were forced to disqualify team Alberta from the final game, as the team's travel arrangements were set to leave Whitehorse prior to puck drop. Despite claiming they would consider adjusting their trip itinerary, Team Alberta left town at 3:40, two hours before the gold medal game was scheduled to be played.
In needing to find an opponent for the male Saskatchewan team, the Manitobans - as winners of the bronze medal - were selected to move on to the finals. The decision couldn't have been a worse one for Saskatchewan, who was forced to play a jubilantly lucky Manitoban team, fresh off a bronze medal win. Team Manitoba piled on the offence, beating Saskatchewan 6-1, claiming their second medal of the day.
In collecting silver, the female Manitoban team has now earned medals 10 times since 2002, while the male team also has 10 medals - in nine years - over that same 17-year span. Saskatchewan will host the 2020 NAHC.