On most Western Hockey League clubs, a second-year player probably isn’t going to be considered a veteran.
For a young Kootenay Ice squad carrying 10 first-year players, right winger River Beattie most definitely is a veteran with 98 career games already under his belt.
With the Ice set to face the Spokane Chiefs in a home-and-home series this weekend, the 18-year-old native of Sherwood Park, Alta., is expected to hit 100 career games Saturday south of the border.
“It’s a huge point in my career, but it’s just a start,” Beattie said prior to practice at Western Financial Place Thursday afternoon. “It’s something you look forward to and that you have on the schedule and you have for a while.”
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound forward would have hit the mark earlier this season, if not for being knocked out of the lineup due to a concussion, which he suffered Nov. 17 in 2-0 loss to the Everett Silvertips.
Beattie went on to miss 10 games due to the concussion.
“He’s an energy guy for us and I think the timing of his injury was really unfortunate,” said Luke Pierce, head coach of the Kootenay Ice, Thursday afternoon. “He was really starting to come along and obviously you miss that duration of time with a head injury, I think it plays with your mind a little bit.
“It’s taken him a little bit to get back to being that consistent, physical presence and contributing to offence when he can. But for the most part, he’s been a pretty consistent member of our group and getting to that 100-game mark is a great accomplishment.
“Hopefully he can find a way to get at least another hundred in.”
In 98 career games, the former sixth-round pick (120th, 2012) of the Ice has registered seven goals and 14 points, along with 71 penalty minutes, including two goals and five points in 35 games this season.
There’s no question the former Lloydminster Bobcat wants to grow and build upon his contributions and he’s drawing upon the experience of having played alongside a handful of now professional players such as Sam Reinhart, Tim Bozon and Rinat Valiev, just to name a few.
“It was great to be able to play with those guys and it’s another thing to have been able to go up to them and ask them anything and talk to them,” Beattie said. “Just to have an open, one-on-one conversation about what it takes and what they did, what they can do to help me move forward.
“I hope to grow more physically and mentally as a hockey player and just keep on striving to be better than I was yesterday.”
Beattie can look forward to his 99th game Friday night when the Chiefs visit Western Financial Place for a date with the Ice.
Having had a full week of prep for this weekend’s home-and-home series, the Ice are looking to rekindle some of what led them to a strong 5-2 triumph back on Oct. 2 in the only meeting of the season between the two clubs thus far.
“Any Don Nachbaur-coached team is going to work extremely hard and have that kind of take-no-prisoners approach to it,” Pierce said. “They’re physical and they’re aggressive. They put a lot of pucks on the net. That’s an area we’ve been really trying to focus on cutting down in — the number of quality shots we’re giving up. We have to kind of have that same intense approach that I thought we started the games last weekend with — an aggressive forecheck, getting up on the play.”
The Chiefs (20-19-3-2) enter Friday’s action fresh off a 4-0 Wednesday loss in Lethbridge against the Hurricanes.
The Ice (8-35-3-0) will look to snap a four-game losing skid.
“They’re obviously a good team,” Beattie said. “We need a quick start. We need to come out hard and know that we’re going to battle with them for 120 minutes straight. We’ve got to go as hard as we can and not let off.”
Friday puck drop is slated for 7 p.m. at Western Financial Place.
After Friday’s contest, the two clubs will head south of the border to do it all over again Saturday night (8:05 p.m.) at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena.