Amy Kenny | Special to the News
At first, they were just there to compete. Now that the Yukon Rivermen know they can do that, they’re there to win.
That’s what Joey Schultz said this week after the Rivermen, a brand new bantam Tier 1 team in Whitehorse, played their first three games against the Thompson Blazers at Takhini Arena over the weekend.
The Blazers won all three games (2-0, 3-1, 6-3) with Schultz walking away from the final game on Sunday with a hat trick.
Schultz, 14, said they’re feeling good about the experience.
“We got a lot of pucks on the net and we had a pretty good forecheck that weekend,” he said. “We’ve definitely got to work on our power play and getting pucks in the net though.”
Head coach Martin Lawrie echoed those sentiments.
Lawrie said the team needs to work on capitalizing on its power plays (“I think we were 0 for seven on the power play in game two,” he said), though he thought they did well with their penalty kills.
In fact, the team’s first goal on Sunday was a shorthanded, unassisted marker by Schultz when the Rivermen were down one due to a penalty.
The team was at its best during the second period. After the Blazers’ Owen Barrow skated straight up to the net and dumped the puck in on Rivermen goalie Dawson Smith, the Rivermen responded with two goals in quick succession.
Schultz’s second goal came roughly three minutes after Barrow’s, with an assist from teammate Connor Cozens. A few minutes later, assisted by Layton Feist, Schultz put another one down, riling up the crowd at Takhini.
By the end of the second period, it was 4-3 for the Blazers, and the Rivermen were still looking strong. However, the Blazers scored twice more in the third, with an early goal from Reagan Milburn, and a later one from Carter Streek widening the gap.
On Monday morning, the Rivermen were back on the practice ice at the Canada Games Centre.
Lawrie said the coaching staff would compare notes this week, and identify what the Rivermen need to work on.
“It was good to get those games in for sure,” said Lawrie. “We’ve gone five weeks without a hockey game. Normally you get to play and evaluate what you need to work on and play again. We just didn’t have that option.”
Overall, he said, the team was feeling good about the weekend. It was the first tier one experience for a lot of the players, Lawrie said. He thinks it taught them they do belong in a tier one league, and showed them they can play a hard game.
“All in all, I was happy with the effort. I was happy with the work the boys put in and I think this weekend leaves the players and coaching staff with a lot of confidence,” Lawrie said. “I think we’re going to be a team to be reckoned with going forward.”
The Rivermen travel to Vernon and Kelowna on Remembrance Day weekend. Their next three home games take place at Takhini Arena Dec. 1-3.
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