“We showed the world we can play,” the NWT’s male hockey team declared as they nearly pulled off an upset in their opener at the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer.
Team NT lost 5-3 to Newfoundland and Labrador having at one point held a 2-0 lead.
Goalie Liam Tereposky produced a string of stunning saves to keep the territory, which was outshot almost two to one, in the game.
Logan Cunningham scored twice, Sam Schofield had a goal and an assist, Ethan Anstey had two assists, and another was provided by Kaden Beck.
Coach Mirsad Mujcin said the team had been stretched following the loss of Jonah Bevington to a 10-minute game misconduct.
“Losing a top player in the first period is a pretty big blow, but other players stepped up and kept it going,” said Mujcin. “It’s a work in progress.”
NWT Premier Bob McLeod, watching his grandson, Carter, said: “I thought they played an excellent game.
“They came out very strong, it could have gone either way,” said McLeod, who added Tereposky “made some outstanding saves.”
A gripping game saw Team NT leap into a surprise 2-0 lead before NL began to find its feet.
The sides were deadlocked at 3-3 in the third period until quickfire back-to-back NL goals put the game beyond the territory’s reach.
However, the players remained proud of their efforts.
“We showed everyone that the underdogs can play,” said Tereposky.
“People think we’re from NT, we can’t play hockey, but we just showed the world that we can.”
Cunningham said: “We had a couple of shaky mistakes there but I think, all round, it was a pretty good game to start off the tournament.”
Responding to praise from Cunningham for his performance, Tereposky said: “It boosts my confidence a bit.
“I feel like we can get better every game. NT always finds a way to fight back – we always fight.”
Team NT faces Prince Edward Island and Yukon on Sunday, then Nunavut on Monday, to complete its pool fixtures.