(March 26, 2014) Both female and male Alberta North teams left for the 2014 Arctic Winter Games in Fairbanks, Alaska with high hopes of bringing home gold and with the added responsibility of being the “teams to beat” – they did not disappoint. The teams were focused, determined and largely untouchable for the majority of the competition.
The Juvenile Female team led by Coach Alexandria Mah scored 38 goals in five games against the Yukon, Greenland, Alaska, Northwest Territories and Nunavut and finished first in their group. They were matched against Alaska for their semi-final who the girls had already beat in the round robin 6-3 in what was a physical match at times and very tight until the end. The semi-final also proved to be tense but the girls fought with a solid performance to a comfortable 4-1 win over the tough Alaskans who did their best to make life difficult. At the end of the day, the Alberta North girls controlled their own destiny out passing their opponent and finishing their chances.
In the final, the girls were up against Greenland who started the game with a defensive style looking for the counter-attack. The Alberta North girls, however, were able to solve their defensive opponents in the first half with two goals in the first half and a further five goals in the second half to take a 7-1 win and their second consecutive Championship trophy.
Despite a challenging first game against a strong Greenland team who displayed impressive technical ability, the Juvenile Male team also displayed a number of dominating performances in the round robin and qualified for their semi-final vs Alaska in unbeaten fashion with 39 goals in five games to their name. The boys coasted to the final after a comfortable 7-1 semi-final win where they would once again face Greenland, a match they were looking forward to since before the games started.
The final was played with tempo and spirit right from the beginning. It was an end to end open match with Alberta North taking a slender lead into half after Greenland scored the opening goal. Despite a missed penalty kick in the second half, the boys in blue steamrolled over a technical but visibly tiring Greenland squad to claim a deserved gold medal with a 7-4 final victory. This was a massive triumph for Coach Chris Spaidal and the team after they were previously denied in the last Arctic Winter Games of a Gold Medal by the Greenland contingent.
Ian Skitch, Manager of Coach Education at the Alberta Soccer Association accompanied the teams for the full week in Alaska. “The Games are a unique event and experience because of the nature of sport and culture in the North. Our Coaches and Players receive an opportunity to represent Alberta in an international event that they would likely not get otherwise. The Games are also beneficial for coach development. We are able to have a young developing coach who gets to hone her skills while tackling licensing and what better way to gain some confidence than leading a team to gold. ” Asked about the quality of play at the Games, Skitch says he was inspired, “This is a unique opportunity to help assist us in developing the game in the North – especially as AWG shifts from the indoor boarded game to futsal. The standard of play is wildly mixed but looking at those setting the standard (Greenland, Yamal, Alberta), there is potential for the standard to be quite high at these Games. If smaller nations like Greenland and Yamal can develop and produce players, it should inspire the other groups to develop the game across the North.”
The Alberta Soccer Association would like to thank and congratulate Coaches Mah and Spaidal and both Arctic Winter Games Teams on their fantastic achievements in Fairbanks!