Gavin McKenna, pictured here during a game against the North Central Zone Bobcats in November 2019, and his Yukon Rivermen teammates are in the midst of a very busy January. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)

Yukon Rivermen face tough tests on the road

The team is in the middle of its busiest stretch of the season — 10 league games in three weeks

It’s been a busy January for the Yukon Rivermen.

After a lengthy spell of more than six weeks without a game in the B.C. Zone AA league, the Rivermen have had six games since Jan. 11 and have another four set for this weekend.

The year started with the Rivermen hosting in the East Kootenay Zone team for a pair of fixtures in Yellowknife, the first time the Rivermen have played home games in the Northwest Territories, on Jan. 11 and 12, losing both games.

Less than a week later, the team was on the road for four games in Kelowna, B.C., against the OMAHA Central Zone and OMAHA South Zone teams.

The Rivermen kicked things off on Jan. 17 with a 3-2 loss against the Central Zone team.

Mike Cozens, head coach for the Rivermen, said that game was definitely one the team might have been able to win.

“The kids played well,” said Cozens. “We missed a couple breakaways that could have tied it. (We) had solid goaltending.”

With little time to reflect on the earlier game, the Rivermen again took on the Central Zone team on Jan. 18. In the second game between the two, the Central Zone team came out firing and built a 5-2 lead after 20 minutes that later grew to an 11-6 final.

Later on that day, the Rivermen were back on the ice for the team’s second game of the day — third of the weekend — against the OMAHA South Zone team.

The fresh legs for the South Zone team proved too much for the Rivermen, as the B.C. team won 7-3.

Tied 4-3 after two periods, the South Zone team scored three unanswered in the third to widen the margin.

In the final game of the weekend for the Rivermen on Jan. 19, the South Zone team won 11-6.

Cozens said his team understands the reality of playing in a B.C.-based league and values the competition.

“They understand that we do way more travel. We’re a team that doesn’t get to practise together like the other teams do,” said Cozens, referring to the roster split between Whitehorse and Yellowknife. “It’s about actually being able to play competitive hockey against kids your own age in that kind of setting as part of a league.”

The Rivermen are back in action on Jan. 24 to 26 for more games with the Central Zone and South Zone teams, this time starting with a pair of games against the South Zone team in Penticton, B.C., before a pair against the Central Zone team in Kelowna.

Regular season play wraps up with one more road trip, this time to Enderby, B.C., and Kamloops, B.C., from Feb. 7 to 9 against the OMAHA North Zone and OMAHA Thompson Zone teams.

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

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