The Yukon Rivermen hosted the South Okanagan Knights for a trio of games in Whitehorse from Nov. 23 to 25, going 1-2 and securing the first league win of the season in the process.
It was a busy weekend at the city’s ice rinks, so Friday’s game was a matinee at the Takhini Arena and the Rivermen came out of the gate sluggish.
“Well we got into a hole and some penalty trouble early,” said head coach Carl Burgess. “The boys (from Yellowknife) landed at about 2:30 and were on the ice by 3:45. It’s part of the learning process, how to get yourself ready. That’s a big challenge so we got in trouble early and didn’t really get out of the hole we dug for ourselves.”
When the dust settled on the first game, the final score was 8-2 in favour of the visiting Knights.
Game two was Nov. 24 at the Canada Games Centre, and the Rivermen earned their first league win of the season 3-1 after scoring three straight for the comeback.
“On Saturday, everyone was prepped and ready and we had a solid game,” said Burgess. “The goalie had a fantastic game.”
Yellowknife’s Devin Vogel stopped 50 of the 51 shots he faced to keep the Rivermen in the game early and ultimately secure the victory.
“That’s an elite performance as a goalie,” said Burgess. “Not so much an elite defence performance as a team. We had more shots (against) than you want the goalie to see in a game, but (the team) brought enough of all their parts of the game to achieve a win for themselves.”
While the goaltending from Vogel and Wynne Anderson-Lindsay has been a key part of the Rivermen’s successes this season, Burgess said it’s not something to be taken for granted.
“Consistency is really hard,” said Burgess. “Consistency is hard for the pros and it’s especially hard for developing athletes. … He had an excellent game for us at a critical time.”
Burgess said it was a total team effort that led to victory.
“It was a good extra effort across the board and that’s what it takes to get a win,” said Burgess. “We have our leaders — we have our stronger players — and they play key roles, but you can’t win unless your other guys are playing their hardest and their roles as well.”
In the third match of the weekend, the Rivermen lost an early morning game 7-1 on Nov. 25.
Despite being split between Yellowknife and Whitehorse, Burgess said the group has quickly become a real team.
“There’s a good team vibe. They get along great,” said Burgess. “Behind the scenes, we try and mix up the billets and hotel room assignments all the time so they’re getting to know each other, but we really don’t have to because they mix and hang out. … They have their own Snapchat (groups) and all that with each other; they stay in more contact than you’d think.”
The team’s next games are in the Kelowna, B.C., area Dec. 7 to 9 against the East Kootenay Ice and the North Okanagan Kings.
Contact John Hopkins-Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org