Joseph Schultz tries to jam a puck past Rocket’s goaltender Xander Stone during a 6-1 Rockets win over the Rivermen on Feb. 3. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)

Yukon Rivermen battle injuries, opposition in weekend matchup with Rockets

‘We were a little short benched and definitely missing some of our top guys’

The Yukon Rivermen took to the ice for a three-game weekend against the Central Zone Rockets looking to make a move up the standings in the B.C. bantam zone tier one league.

The Rivermen came into the weekend riding high, having taken four of six possible points and their first home win against the North Zone Kings the previous weekend at Takhini Arena.

Head coach Martin Lawrie said the mood in the Rivermen locker room was upbeat ahead of the Feb. 2 game.

“We had a chance at catching the Rockets for fourth place if we could have swept them, which was definitely our goal going into the weekend,” said Lawrie.

The home side won the first game 3-2, but victory came at a cost.

Rivermen forward Errol Ekholm left the game with a wrist injury. Lawrie said Ekholm’s wrist might be broken, so his status is questionable for the immediate future.

Saturday’s game got away from the Rivermen, thanks in part to more injuries.

“[The Rockets] got an early goal on us and we just didn’t recover,” said Lawrie. “They just took it to us and beat us 6-1.”

Rivermen captain Ashton Underhill left the game early with a broken collarbone and forward Landon Marsh played the game with a hip injury.

“We were a little short-benched and definitely missing some of our top guys,” said Lawrie.

The Rockets won the rubber match on Feb. 4 by a score of 5-3.

Unfortunately for the Rivermen, they’re back in action this weekend at the Dallas Saunders International Bantam AAA Tournament in Abbotsford.

That means the team will seek to fill out their roster with affiliated players, players who aren’t on the regular roster but are linked to the team.

“We’re working on affiliated players right now. At this level, it’s just so hard to compete — especially in a tournament where you play four or five games over a weekend — with a short bench,” said Lawrie. “I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to fill the roster.”

The Rivermen have one more set of games on the road at the end of February against the Rockets and the Kamloops Junior Blazers, and a final homestand against the East Kootenay Ice the first weekend in March.

With the end of the regular season in sight, Lawrie said the team has made an impression.

“You’ve got to appreciate what these kids have taken on,” said Lawrie. “These are kids that have had tier three exposure their entire hockey careers to this point and really to step up, and be asked to compete against tier one or AAA players for the season, they’ve done an incredible job.”

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

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