There was no Mystery, Alaska II for the Anchorage North Stars as they faced the Vernon Watkin Motors Mustangs Thursday morning at Civic Arena.
In fact, the Mustangs may have actually played better than the New York Rangers did in the 1990 movie about a small town in Alaska whose amateur team gets to play the NHLers on national TV.
It was 1-1 after 20 minutes before the Mustangs pumped up their offence and ambushed the North Stars 8-1 to open the 40th annual Vernon Coca-Cola Pee Wee Invitational Hockey Tournament.
“They were pretty good,” said Anchorage captain Blake Halfpenny, 12, whose favourite NHLer is Alaskan Matt Carle of the Philadelphia Flyers. “They scored some nice goals. We can play with them for most of the game and then we fall apart, just like at home when we play Bantam teams. I think we can play better though.”
Mustang captain Jagger Williamson, who has hands softer than Acme pillows, scored four times to jumpstart the Mustangs. He cut from the corner and went roof daddy on a sweet backhander with 35 seconds left in the second period, giving Vernon a 5-1 lead.
“I thought it was going to miss the net,” smiled Williamson, who said the Mustang dressing room was jumping before game time. “This is a big tournament for everyone of these guys. We played as a team and probably had the best forecheck we’ve had all season. We also had lots of good passing.”
Kaden Black bagged a pair for the Mustangs, while Connor Marritt earned 1+2 and Carson Gray also scored in support of Billy Cawthorn. Connor Johnston pocketed three assists.
Things didn’t start well for towering Watkin Motors defenceman Noah Turanski, who had a nick in one of his skates. He missed a few shifts in the first period while assistant coach Joe Gourdine repaired the blade.
“We passed the puck well,” said Turanski, who turned 13 on Wednesday. “It wasn’t really a physical game so we were able to move the puck around.”
Forward Brett Lambert, the only Mustang who played on last year’s third-place team in this tournament, liked all facets of the Vernon game.
“We were passing, shooting and going to the net, hitting and working hard, all things we talked about doing before the game,” said Lambert, 13.
Sean Richards supplied 3+2 as the powerhouse St. Albert Sabres brushed back the Juan de Fuca Grizzlies 11-2 in other Thursday morning play.
There was loads of energy in the stands as intermediate classes from Silver Star and Alexis Park Elementary Schools brought signs and filled sections of the rink cheering for both teams. Craig Lacroix and Josh Mahura each scored twice for the Sabres, who got singles from Jacob Waldbillig, Connor Deighton, Ethan Marino and Scott MacDonald. Ryan Cox had five helpers. Drew Coughlin and Riley Condon replied for the Grizzlies.
Captain Parker Aucoin counted 5+2 as the Simons Valley Rebels of Calgary upended the Campbell River Tyees 12-5 Thursday afternoon. Joshua Berze and Brayden Dunn chipped in with two goals each for the Rebels.
Darian Swift collected a deuce for the Tyees, who got singles from Sage Lim, Andy Stevens and Cory Bukauskas.
The Mustangs faced the Grizzlies in Thursday night’s feature game. Vernon meets St. Albert today at 3 p.m. The semifinals go Saturday at 12:30 and 2:45 p.m.