The Yukon Rivermen travelled to Nanaimo, B.C., for the Bantam Tier One B.C. Provincial Championships hosted by the Nanaimo Minor Hockey Association.
The tournament got off to a rocky start for the Rivermen in the opener as the tournament winners, Seafair, won 13-2 in a game that saw Rivermen goaltender Dawson Smith injured and forced from the lineup early on.
Head coach Martin Lawrie said it was tough for the team.
“We ended up losing Dawson, our starting goalie, in that game and put Mason [Driscoll], our backup, into a really tough situation to jump in and play the second and third periods,” said Lawrie. “Outside of that, we played a strong game against a strong team.”
With little time to regroup, the Rivermen were back on the ice the next day for a matchup with league rival Prince George.
Although the final score of 7-1 looked one-sided, Lawrie said it flattered the opponents.
“They got some late goals on us which kind of spread that score out,” said Lawrie. “But I mean, it was a good, hard hockey game.”
The highlight for the Rivermen was the third and final game against the Victoria Racquet Club.
Given the opportunity to play spoiler — Victoria needed a win to advance — the Rivermen emerged with a 2-2 tie.
“[Victoria] came out hard, and the boys played really hard in that one,” said Lawrie. “I think we were one post away from finishing fifth, actually. We could have won that one.”
Looking back at the season, Lawrie said the team improved over the year.
“I think the players have definitely grown,” said Lawrie. “We’ve got guys [who] that first tournament we hit in Edmonton in September were kind of spectators in the game. [They] turned into players, producers and important pieces, realizing they can compete at this level. It’s definitely encouraging.”
The bantam zone league the Rivermen play in also proved, in Lawrie’s estimation, to be the best in the province.
“With the Central Zone finishing third and Prince George third at provincials — and Thompson was actually the top-ranked team in our league — I think the league we’re in is definitely the strongest bantam league the province has,” said Lawrie. “All that stuff is really positive and exciting.”
Most importantly, Lawrie said the team finished the season happy with what they accomplished.
“I think they left Nanaimo feeling pretty good about themselves,” said Lawrie.
Although the season is officially over, the start of the selection process for next season’s roster is right around the corner.
The Rivermen will hold their spring camp on May 11, and per B.C. Hockey rules, will name at least 10 players to their roster, with the roster set to be finalized at a second camp in August.
Contact John Hopkins-Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org