The Yukon Rivermen celebrate a goal. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)

Yukon Rivermen host South Okanagan Knights for 3-game series

‘Having 15 games at home is absolutely unheard of for a Yukon team’

The Yukon Rivermen hosted the South Okanagan Knights for a three-game series over the weekend, bookending a 2-2 draw on Dec. 2 with a 3-2 loss on Dec. 1 and a 3-0 defeat on Dec. 3.

Coach Martin Lawrie said the weekend was another learning opportunity for the Rivermen.

“I think the boys are getting better,” said Lawrie. “They’re getting a little more consistent and it’s a big thing at this level, being able to play 60 minutes of hockey, and realizing every shift is important.”

Both teams had a hard time getting into rhythm due to the large number of penalties called. The first two games each had at least 20 minor penalties, forcing special teams — and the officials — into the spotlight.

“This was the first weekend we really had that many penalties on both teams,” said Lawrie. “I didn’t think the games were out of hand by any means. South Okanagan is probably one of the most aggressive teams in our league.”

Goaltender Dawson Smith played a big part in keeping the home side in the games, something Lawrie acknowledged.

“[Smith] is always good, he’s always strong, and he had another strong weekend for us for sure.”

The Rivermen started the weekend behind the eight ball, as two players were out with concussions before the puck dropped for game one.

“I think we had some good efforts out of a number of guys, especially considering we went into the weekend down two players already,” said Lawrie.

This is the team’s first season in the two-year-old B.C. zone tier 1 bantam league, and Lawrie said one of the benefits is the sheer number of home games.

“Having 15 games at home is absolutely unheard of for a Yukon team,” said Lawrie. “It’s been positive.”

One of the advantages to playing in the league is the simple fact games are guaranteed, meaning coaches don’t need to focus on winning to secure games.

“It’s allowed us to coach a little bit different. It’s allowed us to look a little bit longer term,” explained Lawrie. “You don’t have to coach to win a game on Saturday to get an extra game on Sunday.”

Lawrie said it allows the coaching staff to put players into situations they wouldn’t get to play in if wins were an absolute necessity.

Next up for the Rivermen is a trip to Penticton, B.C. for two games against South Okanagan and two games in Midway, B.C. against Kootenay starting Dec. 15.

The next home games are at the end of January during the Yukon Bantam Championships.

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

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