Tuesday was a night for throwbacks and vintage nostalgia as the Kootenay Ice hosted the Lethbridge Hurricanes at Cranbrook’s Memorial Arena.
For the first time since May 12, 2000, the Ice skated in the old barn that welcomed them into the Western Hockey League after relocating from Edmonton following the 1997-98 season.
The stands were bustling as 683 fans squeezed, albeit comfortably, into the relatively smaller confines of the Memorial Arena.
Chants of “go Ice go!” could be heard throughout the rafters at moments.
The Ice even busted out throwback threads, donning classic white sweaters featuring the black sash and “Kootenay” wordmark from the franchise’s early years.
It truly was a party like the year 2000, with one critical exception — the Lethbridge Hurricanes skated away with a 6-1 victory Tuesday night.
“I thought they were hungrier than we were,” said Luke Pierce, head coach of the Kootenay Ice. “I thought they beat us in a lot of one-on-one battles. They were a lot cleaner through the neutral zone. We turned over way too many pucks.
“For a lot of guys and their first taste of action, I don’t think they really appreciated how fast things were going to happen.”
Things definitely happened fast Tuesday night as the Hurricanes got all the offense they needed early in the first period, jumping out to a 2-0 lead before the game was 10 minutes old.
Barrett Sheen opened the scoring 5:16 into the festivities, knocking a rebound past Ice goaltender Keelan Williams.
Only 2:32 wound down on the clock before Brandon Kennedy doubled the lead for the visitors with another doorstep tally as the two teams skated four-on-four with Ice defenceman Tanner Faith and Hurricanes forward Ryley Lindgren serving roughing minors.
Any party-like atmosphere in the building was quickly sucked out after the quick strikes from the Hurricanes.
With a 20-year-old battle raging in training camp, Jon Martin did all he could to have an impact and restore life into the old rafters at the Memorial Arena, pulling the hosts within one goal only 29 seconds later.
The veteran of four WHL seasons, all with the Ice, drove hard down the right wing before taking a pass from linemate Luke Philp and snapping a shot past Hurricanes goaltender Jayden Sittler.
“There’s seven of us 20-year-olds, so it’s going to be a battle,” Martin said Tuesday night. “Every game, every practice is like a tryout. I’ve just got play hard and whatnot.
“I just do what I do best — playing the body, getting pucks deep and being a leader when I can.”
Unfortunately for Martin and the Ice, the one goal was all they were able to manage.
Lindgren restored the Hurricanes’ two-goal lead with a low snap shot that snuck under the glove of Williams to make it a 3-1 game as time ticked down in the first period.
Brett Davis added to the Lethbridge advantage midway through the second period as the Hurricanes carried the play, taking a 4-1 margin into the dressing room along with a 37-22 advantage in shots.
The third period saw Ben Duperreault score a dazzling goal with a backhand shot in tight that managed to sneak high short side over the shoulder of Williams to make it a 5-1 Hurricanes lead before Brady Reagan rounded out the scoring with a power-play tally late in the final period.
When the final buzzer sounded, the Hurricanes had outshot the Ice 50-31.
While the bulging shot count from the visitors was a factor, the penalty count at the end of the night was nearly as high.
The two teams combined for 60 minutes in penalties, with the Hurricanes seeing seven man advantages, striking once courtesy the late Reagan goal.
On the other side of the puck, the Ice were handed six power-play opportunities and unable to capitalize.
Williams made 44 stops on 50 shots in taking the exhibition loss.
At the other end of the rink, Sittler started the game between the pipes for the Hurricanes, turning aside 20 of the 21 pucks directed his way.
Brandon Kegler, 17, carried on midway through the second period and went unblemished as he made 10 saves to preserve the victory for Lethbridge.
The Ice dressed a relatively young lineup, with 15-year-olds Eli Lieffers and Loeden Schaufler making their WHL debuts.
In addition, Pierce dressed a trio of 16-year-olds and six 17-year-olds.
“There’s a lot for us to learn from that [game],” Pierce said. “First and foremost is just how fast the pace is. It’s a smaller rink, so it’s that much quicker, but it’s good to go and play this [game]. Now, we’ll set that as our bar and work.
“I think a lot of our young guys didn’t realize how strong some of these guys would be and they took it for granted. They’ve got a lot of work to do getting stronger and being a little smarter with the puck. There’s always somewhere you’ve got to start and we’re okay with where we’re at.”
On the other side of the puck, Hurricanes head coach Brent Kisio went with a lineup that featured three 16-year-olds and four 17-year-olds.
Next up, the Ice head south of the border for a three-game tournament hosted by the Tri-City Americans in Kennewick, Wash.
The action begins Thursday at 8 p.m. (Mountain) as the host Americans welcome the Ice to Kennewick.
“We have to increase our systems a little bit,” Pierce said looking forward to Thursday. “We went with a very basic approach [Tuesday] and I think Lethbridge was just a lot further ahead than us.
“There was some fundamentals that we were just too far back on, so we’ll work on that [Wednesday] and some of the small keys of cutting down on turnovers and simplifying the game as you go into three busy days. It’s a lot to work on in a short period of time.”
Notes: With 35 players remaining in camp, the Ice scratched a number of notable names Tuesday night, including but not limited to: G Wyatt Hoflin, D Bryan Allbee, D Cale Fleury, D Mario Grman, D Tanner Lishchynsky, D Troy Murray, D Dylan Overdyk, F Matt Alfaro, F Vince Loschiavo, F Zak Zborosky… The Hurricanes scratches included: G Stuart Skinner, D Scott Allan, D Andrew Nielsen, D Nick Watson, F Giorgio Estephan, F Carter Folk, F Justin Gutierrez, F Tyler Wong…