It was a golden weekend for Joe Butkevich. The North Bay native coached Team Ontario red to a gold medal at the 2023 National Women’s U18 Championships in Dawson Creek B.C.
Mackenzie Alexander scored the golden goal just 25 seconds into overtime, allowing Butkevich and his players to lift the trophy, the sixth-consecutive gold medal that Team Ontario Red has won at this tournament. It was a 3-2 final over Quebec, and Butkevich says it was a special moment when Alexander scored as she was one of six players who plays for Butkevich in the Provincial Women’s Hockey League with the Etobicoke Dolphins to also suit up for Team Ontario Red.
“It was phenomenal,” he says. “We actually had three club players on the ice for that overtime-winning goal including our goalie (Hannah Clark) and our Dolphins team captain. It was surreal, a pinch me type feeling.”
Alexander scored a pair of goals, including the game-tying goal at 10:09 of the second period.
“I was just lucky enough to be right there to tap it in,” Alexander said to Hockey Canada.com of her overtime winner. “We are such a tight-knit group, so to win gold with these girls is such an honour. This is an absolute dream come true.” Alexander also finished with the Most Sportsmanlike Player Award for the tournament.
The Quebec side took a penalty for too many players on the ice near the end of regulation and Butkevich says he knew exactly what the game plan was going to be going into overtime on the power play.
“When you’re able to put four kids on the ice that have been invited to Team Canada’s U18 summer camp, I knew what they were going to do, knew what they were capable of. I walked into the dressing room and simply said, ‘we’re winning this’ and then walked out. I told my assistant coach ‘This is going to be over in 30 seconds.’ I trusted my players, I trusted them to get it done,” says Butkevich, who was doused in orange Gatorade after the game.
“You can tell your players have respect for you when they sprint off to the bench and come back with that jug. I saw them from about 15 feet away and then felt a couple more push me forward and I got the entire thing dumped on me, but it’s a moment I’ll never forget.”
Butkevich says the opportunity came to coach the team earlier this fall.
“I got a call from the OWHA in early October asking if I was interested in coaching Team Ontario Red. I accepted and on Thanksgiving weekend we had a camp in Alliston, where we played three exhibition games, did video sessions and held practices in the lead up to this event.”
And not only was he able to have six of his own players on his bench, but the Dolphins were well represented across the board.
“There were 10 of my players in total playing at this event for Team Ontario Blue, British Columbia and Quebec and my equipment manager was also on my bench. It was a great experience for all of them to be there with me,” says Butkevich.