For the fourth straight game, the Kootenay Ice lost by a single goal, falling 3-2 to the Saskatoon Blades at home on Saturday night. Although the Ice had a superb performance from Zak Zborosky, who scored two goals, it wasn’t enough to carry the team to a victory, a feat which remains elusive for them this season.
After finishing last year with only 12 wins and coming in last place in the league, Zborosky and the Ice are desperately hoping that these close losses don’t become a trend.
“Obviously the effort is there and you try to be positive and say it was a one goal game but we’ve got to start winning games,” Zborosky said following the loss. “[If we don’t] it’s going to be like last year, where we had a lot of one goal games and then just kept losing and you can see guys start to give up.
“We don’t want [that to happen] this year, we want this year to be a lot different.”
After letting in two goals in the opening two minutes of their game against Lethbridge the night before, the Ice looked energized at the start of the game against the Blades. While they didn’t generate any significant chances early on, they looked solid in the first five minutes.
Unfortunately, a clearing attempt by Kaedan Taphorn that went out of play and earned them a delay of game penalty, took the wind out of the Ice’s sails. Although the resulting penalty kill was good, and Declan Hobbs — who was starting between the pipes for the first time this season — kept the door shut, it allowed the Blades to get back into the game.
“I was really happy [with the first period], I thought we had an outstanding start,” coach Luke Pierce said. “[The penalty] really hurt us [though], it was just an unfortunate play [and] it took a lot of momentum out of our game and gave them some life.”
Despite, the Ice’s positive start, it was the Blades who struck first with centreman Luke Gringas deflecting Bryton Sayers point-shot past Hobbs with only two minutes left in the period. Tampa Bay Lightning defense prospect Libor Hajek was also credited with an assist on the play.
Halfway through the second, Sayers and Hajek’s efforts at the blueline resulted in another goal when they assisted a Wyatt Sloboshan’s marker that doubled the Saskatoon lead.
As was the story of the weekend however, the Ice quickly rallied back. The Ice’s top line came out with a vengeance following Sloboshan’s goal. Matt Alfaro and Zak Zborosky were both buzzing, and a powerplay opportunity only minutes after going down by two, let them go to work.
Zborosky was all over the puck during the man advantage and after several close chances, he finally put the puck in the net off the rebound of a Vince Loschiavo shot. The Ice went into the second intermission down 2-1 and momentum back on their side.
The third period was marred by penalty trouble for the Ice. While the crowd at Western Financial Place voiced their disagreement with the calls — which included a tripping minor for Alfaro, a highsticking double-minor for Fedor Rudakov, and an interference minor for Zborosky — coach Pierce said he couldn’t take issue with all of them.
“You can’t take eight minor [penalties in a game], that’s not sustainable in any way,” he said. “You can talk about reffing all you want [but] when you take eight, some of them are definitely legitimate, so there’s no excuses.”
While the penalties did not help the team’s cause overall, Zborosky’s opportune placement while exiting the penalty box did translate into a tying goal.
“I saw the puck was in the zone and [the Blades] were rimming [the puck] out to where I was coming out,” Zborosky said, describing his second tally of the night, which he buried straight out of the penalty box. “It was [then] a one-on-one going to the net and I beat the guy and threw it in.”
While the crowd went wild, their happiness was short lived. Less than 30 seconds after Zborosky’s heroics, Barrett Sheen was handed a charging penalty which set off a loud chorus of boos from the Cranbrook faithful.
Within a minute of the start of their powerplay, Logan Christensen scored an unassisted goal and put the Blades back in front. Despite the Ice’s best efforts, the scoreline remained to the final buzzer.
Zborosky was disappointed in the loss, especially after experiencing several similar losses already this year.
“It felt pretty close once we tied it up 2-2,” Zborosky said. “And then [just like in the last] couple of games we got into some penalty trouble and they capitalized, and we just couldn’t fight our way back to tie the game… it was a tough one.”
While not entirely displeased with his team’s performance, coach Pierce said he is still searching for a way to keep his team under control.
“Our emotions got too high when we started taking penalties in the third and then we took more instead of working through it,” he said. “Somehow that message has to get through, we’ve talked about it enough, there’s got to be a different approach now with how we handle that.”
The Ice won’t have to wait long to prove they can stay composed and try to finally get a win. They play another home game on Tuesday against the Moose Jaw Warriors. Although they won’t have a lot of time to prepare, Pierce is happy that the season is now rolling at a normal pace.
“I’m glad we’re finally into the real season now,” Pierce said. “These first two weekends [were] almost an extended exhibition where not everyone has rosters [and] you’re playing two games in seven days, I think [this upcoming stretch] will be good for us.”
“[But] we have to have a good [practice] Monday, it’ll be a short one but it has to be high intensity … we got a real good team coming here on Tuesday so the work continues.”
Notes: Scratches for the Ice included Declan Hobbs (G), Dallas Hines (D), Jared Legien (F), Tanner Sidaway (F) and Shane Allan (F) (INJ – Lower body) … The Blades scratched Jake Kustra (D), Cameron Hebig (F) (INJ – Upper body), Chasetan Braid (F) and Ryan Graham (F) (INJ – Upper body).
Saturday, October 1
Kootenay Ice 2 at Saskatoon Blades 3
1. SAS – L. Gingras (1) (B.Sayers, L. Hajek) 17:50
2. SAS – W. Sloboshan (1) (B.Sayers, L. Hajek) 10:33
3. KTN – Z. Zborosky (3) (V. Loschiavo) 13:20 (PP)
4. KTN – Z. Zborosky (4) 6:46
5. SAS – L. Christensen (2) 7:26 (PP)
Shots 1 2 3 T
Kootenay Ice 14-11-7-32
Saskatoon Blades 12-6-5-23
Goaltenders Record Saves SV%
KTN – Declan Hobbs 0-1-0-0 20/23 0.869
SAS – Brock Hamm 1-1-0-0 30/32 0.937
Townsmen Three Stars:
1. Zak Zborosky – KTN
2. Brock Hamm – SAS
3. Bryton Sayers – SAS