Yukon Rivermen split first home series of the season

Yukon Rivermen forward Gavin McKenna carries the puck into the offensive zone during the team’s home opener against the North Central Zone Bobcats on Nov. 15 at the Canada Games Centre in Whitehorse. The Rivermen won the game 4-1. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)
Yukon Rivermen forward Luke Cozens Luke Cozens circles behind the net during a BC Hockey bantam zone AA league game against the North Central Zone Bobcats on Nov. 15 at the Canada Games Centre in Whitehorse. The Rivermen won the game 4-1. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)
Yukon Rivermen forward Bretton Horte looks to pass into the slot during a game against the North Central Zone Bobcats on Nov. 15 in Whitehorse. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)
Yukon Rivermen defenceman Ethan Candow gets a stick into the shooting lane during a rush by Bobcats forward Matthew Gibson during a game on Nov. 15 at the Canada Games Centre in Whitehorse. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)

The Yukon Rivermen hosted the North Central Zone Bobcats for a pair of games in the B.C. Zone Bantam AA league at the Canada Games Centre on Nov. 15 and 16 in Whitehorse.

Entering the weekend with an 0-4 league record, the Rivermen took full advantage of home ice to win the team’s first home game 4-1 on Nov. 15.

The game got off to an odd start when Bobcats forward Hunter Potskin received a game misconduct for checking from behind just a minute into the first period on a play at the net.

Things didn’t escalate in the first though and both teams settled in for a fast-flowing back-and-forth brand of hockey for the majority of the opening period.

In the second period though, the Rivermen line of Gavin McKenna, Luke Cozens and Bretton Horte took over with three goals to take a commanding 3-0 lead with just over six minutes left in the period. McKenna scored all three second-period goals, with assists for Cozens on two of those goals and for Horte on one.

The Bobcats broke through the strong play of goaltender Gavin Craig with just minutes left in the period to cut the lead to 3-1. Keenan Holland had the goal for the Bobcats assisted by captain Brock Minaker.

The third period was scoreless until McKenna added his forth into an empty net with 29.1 seconds left in the game.

Game two was the morning of Nov. 16 and things started in a similar way for the Rivermen.

Both teams had good opportunities to score early, but were unable to convert.

Rivermen forward Tanner Gorrell had the first good chance of the game, sneaking behind the Bobcats defence for a breakaway with 17:35 remaining in the first.

The home team had another chance to take the lead minutes later when Ken Stalder picked the pocket of a Bobcats defenceman near the hash marks and got a good shot off.

It was another near miss when defenceman Zack Seguin went cross ice to his partner Ethan Bowerman who ran a one-timer off the post.

The visitors struck first when Holland managed to beat Rivermen goalie Fynn Ritchie after a back-checking forward slightly misjudged his positioning on the rush and screened Ritchie.

Things in the first would end 1-1 after McKenna finished serving a penalty and immediately grabbed the puck and fired it glove side on goaltender Brady Mackay.

Early in the second period the Rivermen jumped in front thanks to a Cozens goal assisted by McKenna inside the first minute.

After prolonged pressure, McKenna took the puck on the half wall and skated down toward the goal line before firing a pass to Cozens in front who beat the goalie through the five-hole.

The Bobcats responded though, scoring three goals in quick succession to make the score 4-2 at the midpoint of the second. Ritchie consistently made the first and often second save, but the Bobcats seemed to have an extra step on the Rivermen and were able to jam home second- or third-chance opportunities.

After what seemed like a bad line change from the home team led to a stretch pass and a breakaway goal for the Bobcats, the Rivermen responded with a goal from Seguin to cut the score to 5-3.

Puck luck stayed with the Bobcats though, as a partially-blocked shot got caught in the skates of a Rivermen defenceman before squirting out for a tap in for the North Central Zone team to make it 6-3.

In the third period, the Rivermen seemed to be unable to clog the shooting lanes like in the first and the Bobcats scored their final goal on a rebound from a point shot.

It was clear that the Bobcats had switched to an anyone-but-McKenna mentality, as the Yukon forward was consistently being pressured by two, and often three, Bobcats players.

Despite that, McKenna set up Cozens with a nifty cross crease pass late in the third to cut the score to seven four.

The final goal came on the power play as the Bobcats defenceman lost his stick with McKenna bearing down. One toe drag later, it was 7-5 with just over a minute in regulation.

Not ready to call it quits, the Rivermen kept up the pressure in the waning moments keeping the Bobcats hemmed in their own zone. Unfortunately for the home team, time ran out with the score still 7-5 for the visitors.

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

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