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Ice head to prairies for brief road trip
It may not be home, but it’s close enough for Tyler King and Troy Murray.
The Kootenay Ice are heading into Saskatchewan where they will take on the Regina Pats on Friday evening and the Swift Current Broncos on Saturday.
White City, Murray’s hometown, is a mere 10 minute drive outside of the Saskatchewan capital, while Pilot Butte, where King grew up, is also a short drive away.
Murray, who recently returned from the World U17 Hockey Challenge in Nova Scotia over the Christmas break, wore international colours for the first time in his hockey career, representing Team West.
Always in tough at the tournament, Team West didn’t fare too well, collecting only one win in four games to finish in ninth place.
Murray was a part of the lone victory, scoring in a shootout to upset Sweden, the tournament’s defending champion in a 3-2 decision.
“It was a really good experience,” said Murray. “I thought I played hard and I think we could’ve won a few more games, some bounces didn’t go our way, but I thought we did pretty good.
“It’s always special wearing the Canadian crest on your jersey, just something to be proud of to play for and a special feeling.”
Back in the Ice lineup since a Wednesday night loss to Lethbridge last week, Murray is excited to head back to his home province.
“I’ll have lots of friends and family go there, so it’ll be a fun game,” said Murray.
King is in a similar situation, making a rare trip into Saskatchewan after switching conferences when he got traded to the Ice from the Spokane Chiefs.
“It’ll be exciting,” said King. “I grew up 15 minutes outside of Regina, so it’s always a fun game to go back to.
“Being in the U.S. Division, I only got to play there once, so it’ll be exciting.”
There will be a local connection when the Ice face the Pats, as Regina picked up Kimberley native Isaac Schacher from the Victoria Royals prior to the WHL trade deadline.
The Pats picked up a few more players at the deadline, snapping up goaltender Daniel Wapple and Logan McVeigh from the Tigers.
Regina (23-17-3-2) has won three in a row and currently occupies fifth place in the Eastern Conference, only three points ahead of the Ice (22-20-2-2), which are in seventh.
Over the last three games, Kootenay surrendered an early lead and lost to Lethbridge, survived the Oil Kings to earn a point in a shootout and also collected a win against the same team in a rematch.
“We’ve been kind of up and down, but I think the last game we got back on track of how we wanted to play,” said King.
“We got Sam back and a couple guys back to help us get back on the right game and what we have to do to be successful.”
Following Regina’s game, the Ice will head over to Swift Current and challenge the Broncos.
Swift Current has Julius Honka, a member of the gold-winning Finnish team at the World Juniors, back in the lineup, who made an appearance in Wednesday’s CHL Top Prospects game along with teammate and fellow defenceman Brycen Martin.
The Broncos (23-16-1-5), which lead the East Division, sit in second place in the Eastern Conference, with the Hitmen ahead by a wide margin.