Lucas Henderson shields the puck from Naveah Webb during the final on-ice session of the Yukon Rivermen selection camp. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)

Yukon Rivermen roster picked for John Ferguson Memorial Evaluation Series

This year’s picks heading to Edmonton includes a large Yellowknife contingent

The final selection camp for the Yukon Rivermen bantam tier one hockey team was at the Canada Games Centre in Whitehorse from Aug. 24 to 26 as the countdown to the season continues.

Head coach Carl Burgess said the high turnout helped things run smoothly.

“Everything went as planned,” said Burgess. “We had two teams on the ice which is great. The more kids on the ice, the better. It makes it a lot easier to (make) selections if you see them all in game play against each other.”

Following the camp, the coaching staff named a roster of 22 players who will travel to Edmonton for the John Ferguson Evaluation Series from Sept. 13 to 16.

The series is a chance for the Rivermen and their AAA competition to take a look at prospective players in a tournament situation before rosters are finalized at the end of September.

Burgess said the trip is going to be a great help for coaches and players alike before the season starts.

“It does a few things for everybody,” said Burgess about the series. “It’s the first tournament of full-contact hockey for some of the first-year bantams, it introduces most of the players to the high-speed, high-performance hockey at AAA bantam, and it allows all the teams to adjust and look at their rosters and figure out what’s going to be the best for every player.”

One thing that immediately jumps out about the Rivermen roster is the large number of Yellowknife-based players.

The team was open to players from Alaska, northern B.C. and the Northwest Territories in its inaugural season last winter, but Burgess said the interest in Yellowknife was so high that Hockey Yukon entered into an agreement with Hockey Northwest Territories to help coordinate.

Burgess said practices will be held in both Whitehorse and Yellowknife, and said the content will be largely the same.

“We’re coordinating as much as possible,” said Burgess, adding that assistant coach Shawn Talbot will be taking the reins in Yellowknife. “They’re practising the same way we’re practising — they’re practising the same systems.”

The plan is to take advantage of time together on the road for games and tournaments to also sneak in some practice time as a unit.

“We’re sort of trying this out this year,” said Burgess. “Most of the players know each other from battling over the years, (Yellowknife) Wolfpack versus Mustangs.”

Although the majority of last year’s team aged up to minor midget, there are two fully-carded returning players — Ryder Twardochleb and Sawyer Adams — plus a handful of former affiliated players from Yellowknife — like Logan Cunningham, Andrew Carr and Drew McKinnon — who will add to the team’s experience.

The zone league is expanding this year, with Prince George formally joining the league and a new team in Fort St. John bringing the total up to eight.

Rivermen fans can expect three to four weekend home stands once the season starts in October, as well as a four-team showcase weekend Burgess said is in the works with Fort St. John, Prince George and Cranbrook.

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

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