Yager & Unger Cherish Capital City Challenge Experience
Jackson Unger and Brayden Yager had the opportunity to wear a Team Canada sweater for the first time over the past week.
The Moose Jaw Warriors duo represented Canada Red at the 2021 Capital City Challenge in Ottawa, coming back with a silver medal after a 5-4 overtime loss to Canada Black in the gold medal game on Wednesday.
"My first experience with Hockey Canada, it was a really good one, I had a really fun time, meeting all the new guys, meeting the staff - they're first class - so hopefully I get another chance to wear the maple leaf," Yager said after rejoining the Warriors on Thursday.
Yager put together a stellar tournament, playing on Canada Red's top line each game and finishing with a team-high four goals and seven points in five games.
He said he felt like he handled the short tournament aspect of the Capital City Challenge very well.
"In a short tournament like that you've got to start really fast, you don't have time to get settled in, you have to jump out of the gates really fast and we did a good job of that," Yager said.
Unger served as the backup goalie for Canada Red in their first game, but took over the net after that, playing the next four games and posting a 2.17 goals against average and a 0.927 save percentage, which both led the tournament, with one shutout.
"It was good to get the first game under me and then I felt comfortable in there after that playing the rest, and I thought I had a really solid tournament overall," he said.
"I stayed calm throughout every game, just steady headed and keeping everything simple."
Warriors goalie Jackson Unger in net for Canada Red at the 2021 Capital City Challenge in Ottawa. (Photo: Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada Images)
Unger hopes his performance showed the Hockey Canada brass that he belongs among the country's top players.
"I think I performed well in the tournament and hopefully that does leave a mark and my name gets out there for the next goal of the U18s this summer," he said.
Unger and Yager were joined on Canada Red by Warriors assistant coach Gord Burnett. Unger said that made the experience all the more special.
"It's always good knowing familiar faces going into anything," he said. "We're close throughout the whole tournament, Gord was great working on the [penalty kill] and stuff, so it was fun."
Yager was also familiar with one of his linemates from the tournament, getting to play with former minor hockey teammate Riley Heidt from the Prince George Cougars.
"It was pretty cool getting to play with him and then made a new friend, his name is Bradley Nadeau, he's a really good player from New Brunswick, he's a really good guy and it was a blast playing with him as well," Yager said.
The tournament ended in heartbreaking fashion for the three Warriors and Canada Red with the overtime loss in the gold medal game.
Yager set up Heidt for a go-ahead goal with just 29 seconds left in regulation, but Canada Black tied the game with 0.4 seconds remaining to send the game to overtime where they eventually came out on top.
"It was really high and low moment in the last 30 seconds of the game," Yager said.
Yager, Unger and Burnett rejoined the Warriors for Thursday's game in Calgary.
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