In their inaugural season, the Yukon Rivermen have been turning heads. And they hope to continue that at the BC Hockey provincial championships in March.
The championships hosted in Nanaimo, B.C. include representatives from each zone and being the only team in the Yukon, the Rivermen have an automatic entry. But they want to prove they deserve to be there amongst the best.
“Absolutely a strong showing at provincials is definitely what we’re after,” head coach Martin Lawrie said. “I think we’re farther along than a lot of the clubs in BC Hockey kind of anticipated as far as our competitiveness. I think if we stay healthy and the guys play their game, I think we can have a little bit of success at the provincials.”
The Rivermen got a taste of some of the competition they’ll be facing at the Dallas Saunders Bantam AAA tournament in Abbotsford, B.C. this past weekend.
Sixteen of the top bantam teams in Western Canada and U.S. competed in the international tournament.
The Rivermen won their first game of the tournament over Chilliwack by a score of 4-2 with four different goal scorers for the team.
They led 3-2 after the second with Joey Schultz adding an insurance marker in the third.
In their next game, the Rivermen were up against Seafair, the top-ranked team in B.C. Yukon lost the game 4-0, but Lawrie said he was pleased with the way they played against the number one team.
“We played well, they’re a good team,” Lawrie said. “They just don’t have any weak spots.”
Heading to the provincials, Lawrie said it was good to get experience playing this top team.
“The guys recognize that they’re a good hockey team, but they’re definitely not an unbeatable team for us,” he said. “We fully expect to see them again.”
In the third and final round robin game, with a place in the quarter-finals on the line, the Rivermen faced off against the Thomson Jr. Blazers who they have met several times before in league play.
As in their past match-ups, it was a tight affair with the Blazers winning 4-2.
“They were up 4-0 going into the third period. We played a really good third, we pushed back, we got a couple, we were pushing right till the end of the game for that one,” Lawrie said.
Finishing 12th ranked out of the 16 teams, the Rivermen played one more game in the 11 vs 12 seeding game against Delta Hockey Academy.
Delta was up 3-2 headed into the third with the Rivermen tying the game on a goal by Errol Ekholm with less than six to go in the game.
Delta regained the lead eight seconds later, but Yukon tied it back up with less than five to go on a goal by Landon Marsh with the game ending in a 4-4 tie.
“We probably should have won that game,” Lawrie said. “We just had a couple of mental mistakes that ended up in our net and then a little penalty trouble.”
The regular season will continue for the Rivermen this upcoming weekend back in B.C. They’ll take on the Blazers twice in Kamloops and then the Central Zone Rockets in Kelowna.
Also, due to a BC Hockey scheduling change, the Rivermen will host one more home series with East Kootenay making the trip to Whitehorse for a three-game series March 3-5.
Yukon currently sits fifth in the seven-team league with four wins. Thomson is leading the league with only two losses.
East Kootenay is at the back of the pack with two wins on the year.
The Rivermen and East Kootenay met twice before with the Rivermen taking the first game 6-3 with East Kootenay battling back in the second game to win 3-2.