A Northeast Tracker takes a tumble while getting of a shot on the Rivermen during game action in Whitehorse on Nov. 11. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Rivermen end 2018 with four-game road trip

“It’s a bit of an old-school travel swing; three different nights, three different hotels.”

The Yukon Rivermen were back on the road for four games in British Columbia on Dec. 7, 8 and 9 against the East Kootenay Ice and the North Okangan Kings.

Opening up the weekend, the Rivermen took to the ice for a pair of games against the Ice in Midway, B.C., before moving 230 kilometres down the road to Enderby, B.C., for games against the Kings.

Head coach Carl Burgess said that although the Rivermen lost all four games, there were still a lot of positives to take from the weekend.

“They put a lot of good periods together,” said Burgess. “Some good head-to-head hockey against East Kootenay — we’re a good match with them.”

The Kings currently sit near the top of the standings, but the Rivermen were able to hang tough — even taking the lead into the third period of the first game.

While it was the first game between the two teams, it wasn’t even the first game of the day for the Rivermen.

“Great game, great effort, but we ended up losing,” said Burgess. “Just no gas. Four games in 36 hours, right?”

The Rivermen started Saturday with a game against the Ice before hopping on the bus and driving the three plus hours for a game against the Kings later that afternoon.

“It’s a real tough go,” said Burgess. “It’s a bit of an old-school travel swing; three different nights, three different hotels.”

With so much experience playing multiple games in short windows, the Rivermen should be well prepared for the upcoming tournaments and the eventual playoffs.

“The tournament play should help level the field because all the teams will be having the same physical challenges,” said Burgess. “When we head into tournament play it bodes well because we’re learning what it takes to play and continue to play with a little bit of fatigue.”

Next up for the team is the Kamloops International Bantam Ice Hockey Tournament from Jan. 2 to 6 in Kamloops, B.C., with a field of approximately 20 teams from across western Canada and the northern United States of America.

For now, though, things are lightening up for the team as the holidays approach.

“We’re going to reduce the practice intensity and pick it back up right before we leave,” said Burgess. “We have two tournaments, a couple league games and the playoffs on our horizon. That’s a whole different scenario, so that change will be great.”

Despite just a handful of wins on the scoreboard, Burgess said the team has improved — and continues to improve — as the season continues.

“Up to now we’re on target,” said Burgess. “The players and the coaches understand the team a little bit better now. There are a lot of players that are learning this level for the first time, so now that they have quite a number of games under their belts a lot of the ‘unknown’ nerves are gone. That process is over.”

And, like any hockey team, the Rivermen are focused on being at their best for the playoffs.

“The kids want to play big hockey — everyone wants to win,” said Burgess. “It’s hard to rack up the losses and not have as many in the ‘W’ column, but there are lots of wins and achievements the team has experienced within itself and that’ll help a lot with the end of this season.”

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at john.hopkinshill@yukon-news.com

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