The Yukon Rivermen spent the first day of the new year travelling to Kamloops, B.C. to play in the Kamloops International Bantam Ice Hockey Tournament (KIBIHT).
The Rivermen first took the ice against the Chilliwack Bruins falling by a score of 6-3. Logan Cunningham, Andrew Carr and Luke Kotaska did the damage for the Riverman in the loss. Kotaska, McKinley Talbot and Taylor Catcher picked up the assists.
The team had a rough go in the second game losing 12-0 to the Thompson Zone Blazers. New Rivermen Yukon based coach Scott Palfreyman, says the team struggled against the top teams.
“They played okay,” said Palfreyman. “It is definitely a challenge against some of the top teams. We were playing on the tier 1 side with a lot of strong teams.”
In the Rivermen’s third round robin game the team won 4-3 in overtime against the Comox Valley Chiefs to put a W in the win column. Andrew Carr led the offence potting a hat trick, including the OT winner at 4:14 of the extra frame.
Kotaska scored the team’s second goal of the game. Logan Cunningham tallied three assists in the effort. Wynne Anderson-Lindsay was between the pipes for the Rivermen.
The KIBIHT has been a long-running tournament established in 1968. There were 16 teams competing in the tier 1 division. Palfreyman, who played in the KIBIHT during his bantam days, says it is a really competitive tournament.
New to the team, Palfreyman says he did not have time to get onto the ice with the team before the tournament. Since he did not have time to practice with the team beforehand he said he was trying to instil a defensive minded mentality.
“I would say I am a defence first coach,” said Palfreyman. “Defence is such an important part of the game, so we need to do well on that side of the puck. I’m trying to teach them good habits during practice. If the other team doesn’t have the puck, they cannot score.”
To begin their playoff run, the Rivermen took the ice against the Victoria Racquet Club. The Rivermen were on the wrong side of the ledger falling 10-4. Talbot, Carr, and Cunningham tallied in the first period. Cunningham got the team’s lone goal in the second period. Carr and Kotaska each had two helpers. Drew MacKinnon, Talbot and Catcher picked up one each.
The team’s second playoff game was a rematch of their only round- robin win against the Comox Valley Chiefs.
Unfortunately for the Rivermen, there was a different result this time around as the dropped the game 4-3 after six rounds of shootouts.
The tournament was the first extended opportunity for Palfreyman to see the Rivermen play and now has a better idea of the areas to work on.
“They had good work effort, I was pleasantly surprised by their compete level,” said Palfreyman. “They took some shifts off and that can’t happen at this level. We will continue to work on the defensive zone, neutral zone and the forecheck. If they take care of the defensive end, the offence will come.”
At this point in the season and where he is taking the team over from Palfreyman says he is less concerned about the wins and more concerned with the process.
“They are starting to understand the work they need to do if they want to get where they want to be,” said Palfreyman.
“If they want to continue gaining ground on the top teams they are going to have to work. And if they want to go on to midget or major midget this is the time to improve. They definitely had an eye opener.”
The Rivermen feature players from the Yukon and the Northwest Territories and play in the BC Hockey Zone Program.
“This year it is unique have the players from the N.W.T. on the team,” said Palfreyman.
“I’m jumping in, it’s a bit more challenging, but I am up for it. Myself and the coach from N.W.T. will come up with a similar practice plan between the Yukon and the N.W.T, that way the players will be on the same page when we are all together again.”
This is the second season of Rivermen hockey, in their first year the team was made up only Yukon players. The players who were not based in Whitehorse would billet with families in the city.
The team now home from Kamloops, will be practicing Monday-Friday in both territories. One of the challenges Palfreyman said he faced while coaching in the tournament was the players were not used to his terminology and way of doing things in game.
KIBIHT were the first games the Rivermen competed in since they once again travelled to B.C. to play the Okanagan Knights in Enderby, and the East Kootenay Ice in Midway, in early Dec. The team went 0-4 on that road trip.
Up next for the Rivermen, the team will be on the road again, this time to Prince George to compete in the Crossroads Cup happening next weekend. The tournament features 12 AAA bantam teams.