Mar 14, 2012 - By Bruce Tippets, Sports EditorA Riverton team won its first-ever Wyoming Association Hockey League Championship on Sunday when the bantam squad beat Gillette 7-3 for the Class B title in Rock Springs.
The team was made up of Riverton and Cody players in the 13-to-14-year-old age group.
"It's a long time coming," said Riverton coach Chad Vail. "It means that we know we can do it. It's always a fight for Riverton hockey because we don't have ice and we don't have temperatures."
The Riverton-based squad opened the tournament playing in a round-robin format for an opportunity to play in the title game.
The River Rats posted a 2-1 record to clinch a spot in the championship.
Riverton began the tournament beating Douglas 3-2. Gillette edged the River Rats 3-2. With a title match on the line, Riverton won 5-3 vs. Laramie.
The River Rats are Sam McMenamy, Wyatt LeClair, Kelly Ayars, Jayden Heidt, Jasper Vail, Carson Asher, Zac Tenlen, Sean Wagner, Cole Merly, Willie Ramos, Nick Stover, Skyler Hiebert, Carter Johnson and Slade Becker.
"This group of boys has been second five times," Vail said. "They were extremely excited when they won. We didn't even have enough players to field a team with players from Cody. We got that done, and that worked out good."
Jasper Vail and Merly will move up to the next age group. Those two are defenders for the River Rats.
"The problem is that we will be facing is that we won't have enough kids next year," Vail said.
Other coaches on the team were Rick Millhouse and Larry Johnson.
Vail said the Gillette game in round-robin could have gone either way.
"We almost tied up Gillette in the last 30 seconds," Vail said. "The official waved off the goal."
In the title game vs. the Gillette Wild, the River Rats were deadlocked at 2-2 after the first period.
Riverton broke the game open in the second period with four goals. Riverton added one more goal in the third period for the five-goal win.
"We just figured out Gillette's goalie in the second period," Vail said. "That was the biggest thing.
We got him out of his game. We ran pretty much everything on him. That opened up for us."
Scoring goals for Riverton in the title game were McMenamy, Heidt, Stover, Becker and Johnson.
Riverton played Gillette twice during the regular season, losing one and tying one.
"Gillette was very tough," Vail said. "We were pretty evenly matched. Gillette has some really big kids on their team. They have one really good goalie."
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