With an unprecedented 15 home games in their inaugural season, the new Yukon bantam tier 1 team wrapped up their schedule with a three-game series this past weekend.
The Chance Oil Yukon Rivermen welcomed the East Kootenay Ice to the territory for the first time to complete their 22-game regular season.
With a depleted bench due to a slew of injuries that have impacted the team all season long, the Rivermen took one point with a tie in the second game of the series. They dropped the series opener Saturday night at Takhini Arena by a score of 5-1. Rivermen back-up goalie Mason Driscoll got his first starts of the season as Dawson Smith recovers from an injury.
Even with the two losses, head coach Martin Lawrie said there were a lot of positives to take away from the weekend as the team prepares for the B.C. championships.
“If we can come out of weekends better than we went into weekends that’s really our goal,” he said. “I’d like to think we did. We had a lot of regulars get bigger roles because of injuries.”
As a result of the injuries, Lawrie said the team was able to call up six local players to join the squad for a taste of the tier 1 action.
“That was definitely good. A couple of first-year bantams got a bit of a taste this season,” he said. “We’re exposing a few more Yukoners to (tier 1 hockey).”
Lawrie said with provincials on the calendar in two weeks they hope to have all the players currently nursing injuries ready to return, but are unsure about captain Ashton Underhill who has been out for over a month with a collarbone injury. Injuries are a part of sport, but with the constant revolving door of injuries on the Rivermen lineup this season, Lawrie said this is new to him.
“I think part of it is the way our season is built. We don’t get to play one game and have two to three days off. We have three or four games over the course of three days and I think some of that’s caught up to us,” he said.
The team has taken caution to the increase in injuries and with Physio Plus on board, Lawrie said it is something they will talk about in the off-season to work on minimizing time off for the players. In the second game of the series against the Ice, the Rivermen battled to a high-scoring 5-5 tie before dropping a close one 3-2 in the early hours of Monday morning at the Canada Games Centre. It is now all about the BC Hockey Championships in Nanaimo for the first-year bantam team. The eight teams in the tournament representing the different regions will play a three-game round robin
starting March 19 before the semifinals and championship game March 22. And the Rivermen plan to be ready.
“Ultimately, everything you play for is an opportunity and to have a good showing at provincials,” Lawrie said.