The focus of the Cree Nation turned to the ice in late November, when the puck dropped on the 39th edition of the CREE Senior Hockey and Broomball Tournament. One of the most celebrated events on the Eeyou Istchee calendar, this year’s tournament featured 80 hockey and broomball teams competing in eight categories for over $80,000 in prize money.
The Mistissini Trappers dominated in Class A Hockey, marching undefeated to this year’s title. The Trappers claimed victory by the narrowest of margins, with three of their five wins during the tournament coming by a single goal, including a pair of 3-2 victories over the Waskaganish Wings.
Despite being involved in such close contests, the Trappers emerged as the highest-scoring club in Class A, outscoring opponents by an overall margin of 15-6 on the strength of a 9-2 rout of the Whapmagoostui Tomahawks in preliminary action.
Nathan Matoush led the way among Trappers selected to the Class A Hockey All-Star squad. The Mistissini netminder stood particularly tall in the Trappers 3-2 shootout win over Waskaganish that opened their tournament schedule, and set the stage for their march to the championship banner.
Joining Matoush as all-star selections were teammates Silas Neeposh and Marcus Rabbitskin. Grant Kakabat, Terrence Shanush and Justin Otter were also named to the All-Star squad after leading the Wemindji Wolves to the Class A Hockey final, where they fell to defeat for a second straight year dropped a heartbreaking 3-1 decision to the Trappers.
While the Wemindji men came up short in their bid for the Class A Hockey title, the women fared far better, with the Wemindji Ladywolves enjoying an undefeated run to the championship in Women’s Hockey at this year’s tournament.
The Ladywolves quickly emerged as the top team at this year’s tournament, outscoring opponents by a wide 15-3 margin in a trio of preliminary contests. They continued to roll into playoff action, capping their run to the title with a decisive 6-2 win over the Kitigan Zibi Wheels in the Women’s Hockey final.
The sister act of Dana and Sara Morrison spearheaded the Ladywolves’ attack, combining to score five goals and six assists, and earning All-Star nominations as a result. But it was the Misstisini Mustangs that otherwise dominated the list of top scorers, with Courtney Neeposh and Wabaguin Longchap joining Sara Morrison at six points. However, those efforts proved to be not enough to get the Mustangs past the semi-final, where they were bounced by Kitigan Zibi in a 2-1 loss.
Over in Class B1 Hockey action, the Lac Simon Beavers overcame an early preliminary stage loss to the Waskaganish Hawks to dominate down the stretch, and ultimately claim the championship banner. The Beavers needed to knock off the previously undefeated Eastmain Thunder to win this year’s title.
The Thunder posted decisive preliminary wins over the Ouje-Bougoumou Underdogs and Chisasibi Warriors before putting the rest of Class B1 on notice with a crushing 10-0 win over the Kashechewan Wolves in quarter-final action. But Eastmain was unable to keep pace with the Beavers in a 4-1 loss in the category final.
Former Val-d’Or Foreurs forward Adam Cheezo led the Thunder contingent named to the Class B1 Hockey All-Star Team, joined by teammates Sebastian Gilpin and Marcus Whiskeychan, while Jeremy Dupont, Jonathan Dupont and Jean-Guy Papatie got the call from the champion Beavers.
A potent offense proved to be the difference maker as the Waskaganish Ex Wings waltzed to the title in Old Timers 40+ Hockey. Led by Kevin Hester and Abel Namagoose, who each potted five goals during the tourney, the Ex Wings averaged over seven goals per game while enjoying an undefeated run to glory, capped by a 7-0 demolition of the Chisasibi Relics in this year’s final.
And the tournament would not be complete without the excitement of Women’s Competitive Broomball. Waswanipi earned one of its three titles at this year’s tourney thanks to the impressive play of the Waswanipi Eagles. Despite being 3-2 losers to the Wemindji Icestars in their tournament opener, the Eagles quickly rebounded to earn the second seed in the playoffs with a win over the Pikogan Nighthawks and a 5-0 rout of the crosstown rival Waswanipi Icehawks.
The squad continued to play stout defense in playoff action, highlighted by a narrow 1-0 semi-final win over the powerhouse Waskaganish Starlites, and earned Waswanipi its third championship banner of the tournament with a narrow 2-1 victory over the Icestars in the final.
Elsewhere on the ice, Vern Cooper made his presence felt in both Class B2 Hockey and Men’s Broomball. Cooper earned All-Star nominations in both categories while leading Waswanipi to a pair of championship banners.
Over in Women’s Recreational Broomball, the Lac Simon Tonok left town with this year’s title after escaping with a pair of narrow 1-0 playoff wins, including a victory over the Wemindji Crees in this year’s final.