Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Dustin Cook

GRITTY GAMES – Rivermen forward Landon Marsh fights for the puck in front of the Knights net;

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Photo by Dustin Cook

Rivermen defence man Owen Palfreyman sends a Knights player into the boards while battling for the puck during a 3-0 loss Sunday morning.

Rivermen cap off big bantam hockey weekend

The second home series of the season for the Yukon Rivermen capped off a busy weekend showcasing bantam hockey in the territory.

By Dustin Cook on December 4, 2017

The second home series of the season for the Yukon Rivermen capped off a busy weekend showcasing bantam hockey in the territory.

Paired with the Bantam International Showdown featuring the first action for the bantam Arctic Winter Games development team, the Rivermen took on the South Okanagan Zone Knights.

After three hard-fought and chippy affairs, the team is still looking for their first win on home ice.

The Rivermen finished the weekend with one point in a 2-2 draw on Saturday. They fell to the Knights, who only have one loss on the season, in the two other games on the weekend.

In the opener on Friday night at Takhini Arena, the Rivermen fell 3-2 in a close contest that could have had an entirely different result if the team’s power play was clicking – a major lack for the team so far this season, head coach Martin Lawrie said.

“We just aren’t getting any production on the power play at all,” he said following the series finale on Sunday. “We really need to start scoring on power plays. Just a 15 per cent power play probably has us at least a tie Friday night or possibly a win and makes this one a little tighter as well.”

The Rivermen fell 3-0 in the finale on Sunday with Knights goalie Tanner Johnson leading the way in the shutout.

In the third period down 2-0, the Rivermen thought they cut the lead in half as the puck beat Johnson but was immediately called off for goaltender interference.

The game was a physical and penalty-filled affair with 27 combined minor penalties.

Two Rivermen left the game with injuries on knee on knee collisions, Lawrie said, and a Knights player was also injured in the third period as a result of a high stick.

Towards the end of the game, Rivermen assistant coach Jake Jirousek started voicing his concerns over the chippy play to the referees and the Knights coaches and after the handshake at the end of the game went over to their bench to continue the conversation.

“Two of the kids we lost today were lost to kneeing incidents,” Lawrie said. “There were penalties on the plays but they were two minutes for tripping and those are calls that probably warrant a little bit more especially when they take players out so Jake was a little wound up about that and quite frankly so was I.”

The referees monitored the discussion at the Knights bench with all the players already off the ice and escorted Jirousek back to the Rivermen side.

Already down two players heading into the series with concussions Lawrie said, losing two more in the final game, making it a very short bench for most of the game. The team also lost lead scorer Joey Schultz in Saturday’s game with a groin injury.

“They’re an intense team. They played hard right from the very first shift to the very last shift,” Lawrie said. “I don’t think the injuries were an intent to injure. They play a hard game.”

The tension between the two teams won’t have much time to simmer as the Rivermen will travel down to play the Knights Dec. 16-17 in Penticton, B.C. sandwiched between two games against East Kootenay.

So it will again be a busy weekend for the team with four games in three days, with a doubleheader on Saturday.

Following the tough three-game series Lawrie said the team, sitting sixth out of the seven teams in the division standings, are a little down but will be looking to turn things around and with a better power play in their next outing.

“They’re a little banged up, they’re disappointed. I think each of them probably feels like they could have given a little bit more,” Lawrie said. “They did run out of gas but it’s that whole learning to compete for 60 full minutes, every shift’s important, every player’s important and we’re still trying to get there.”

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