Hockey Yukon’s new bantam Arctic Winter Games development program will get their first taste of competitive action as they host the International Showdown Dec. 1-3 – the only division this year.
But, the six-game weekend between three teams will be paired with the second home series for the Yukon Rivermen Bantam Tier 1 team, meaning a full weekend of bantam hockey at Takhini Arena.
The Games development program came about in both the bantam and midget divisions after the number of players lacked at the Mustangs tryouts in September.
“The tryouts were a little slim given on how the Rivermen unfolded this season so what we did is we switched it,” bantam development team head coach Carl Burgess said before a team practice Friday. “We knew that there were quite a few players interested in competitive hockey.”
So the development program came about at the end of September and is an open-door policy for any bantam-aged player who wanted to give it a shot could join the team.
The roster is currently sitting at 21 players, Burgess said.
The team is currently playing in the Whitehorse Minor Hockey League midget house league division, but this will be the first high-level competitive test against two other bantam programs.
Two teams will be making the trip up to Whitehorse for the showdown, the Semiahmoo Ravens based out of Surrey, B.C. and the Mat-Su Valley Thunder from Alaska. About half of the Semiahmoo team was up in Whitehorse for a
tournament when they were at the atom age level, Burgess said, and their previous experience was part of the draw to come back.
“This year two bantam teams want to come and we just make the most of who’s interested in coming every year so it’s coming together great,” Burgess said. “It’s nice to be able to twin the event with the Rivermen. All our bantam talent will be on the ice all weekend so that’s lots of fun.”
The Rivermen will be playing their second home series of their inaugural season against the South Okanagan Zone Knights based out of Penticton/West Kelowna.
The three teams in the showdown will play each other twice, with two games Friday-Sunday. This will be the first competitive test for some of the players on the Yukon team, Burgess said, and with that comes a lot of nerves and
“I’m really happy with how excited and nervous they are and they’re happy to test themselves and we know that the two clubs coming in are really strong,” he said. “It’s a great bunch of guys and they’ve really surprised me how they’ve come together as a team and how focused they seem to be.”
Burgess will be the head coach of the bantam Arctic Winter Games team with the official trials for the team set for Dec. 22-23. Players not on the development team can attend the trials for the team. From the trials, Burgess said there will be practice rosters, similar to the development program, to work towards the final roster of 15 skaters and two goalies allowed for the Games team.
After the trials, Burgess said the team is looking at a couple of trips in January with a potential trip to Juneau, Alaska to take on a varsity team as well as a potential trip down the Alaska Highway to Fort Nelson and Fort St. John, B.C.
The new program will get their first test Friday morning against Semiahmoo at 8:30 a.m.. They will play in the first game of a double-header starting at 5 p.m. The first Rivermen game of the weekend will follow at 7:30.
All games throughout the weekend will be played at Takhini Arena.