The Kootenay Ice (1-1-0-0) return to Red Deer in hopes of getting back in the win column against the Rebels (1-1-0-0) Saturday night.
The Ice opened the 2014-15 WHL regular season with a 5-3 victory over the Rebels at ENMAX Centrium back on Sept. 19 before falling to the Edmonton Oil Kings 4-2 the following evening at Rexall Place.
After opening weekend, Kootenay Ice assistant coach Jay Henderson said he felt the team was lucky to get away with two points, blaming his team’s low compete level.
“We want more puck possession and [to be] a tougher team to play against,” Henderson said prior to practice Thursday afternoon. “That’s the biggest thing we’ve talked about [being] missing [from our game].
“Compete is a huge thing, not only in hockey but in the world and in life’s day-to-day stuff. If we compete and execute the way we can, things are going to work well for this team.”
Kootenay iced a young roster opening weekend, including three rookie defencemen and three rookie forwards. Saturday they will be boosted by the return of RW Jaedon Descheneau (St. Louis Blues) and D Tanner Faith (Minnesota Wild). The two veterans were re-assigned to the Ice by their respective NHL clubs Tuesday afternoon.
“Tanner [Faith] will have a lot to prove after missing a lot of last year,” Henderson said. “But those two guys should help our power play, no question.”
The Ice power play sits tied for ninth in the league with a 14.3 per cent success rate (1/7) heading into Friday night action.
The return of Descheneau will infuse some extra offense and fire into the line up. The Edmonton native was second in team scoring with 98 points during the 2013-14 season, trailing only C Sam Reinhart’s 105 points. The productive campaign put the 5-foot-9 spark plug on the radar as the Blues selected him with the 124th overall pick in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
“I need to use my feet more and drive to the net more instead of trying to stop up and make a play,” Descheneau said of the feedback he received from Blues camp. “I’m going to do that here more often and bring that into my game.”
In addition to his dynamic offensive ability, Descheneau brings along much-needed experience. With 193 WHL regular-season games under his belt, the 19-year-old will fill a leadership role alongside Luke Philp.
“I’m not a vocal guy in the room, I don’t speak much,” Descheneau added Thursday afternoon. “I’m going to do what I can on the ice to lead by example and show the younger guys what it takes to play in this league.”
Faith only dressed for 10 games with the Ice last season as he battled injury. Despite the struggles, the native of Wilcox, Sask. was drafted 139th overall by the Minnesota Wild in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
“The knowledge of how hard you have to work to excel and win is what I learned [the most about at Minnesota Wild training camp],” Faith said Thursday afternoon. “The guys there work hard every day. They don’t stop.”
Faith hopes to use that experience to set an example in practice, as he believes hard work in practice is where the foundation for in-game success is built.
The last time the Ice and Rebels met, Red Deer RW Brooks Maxwell opened the scoring with a short-handed effort. Kootenay RW Jon Martin turned in a two-goal third period, including the game-winner, to help push the Ice to what head coach Ryan McGill characterized as a “helter-skelter” win.
Goaltender Wyatt Hoflin turned aside 28 shots for the Ice, while Rebels netminder Taz Burman was victimized four times on 23 shots.
The Rebels followed up the season-opening loss to Kootenay by cruising past the Calgary Hitmen 4-1 Sept. 20.
After Saturday’s tilt in Red Deer, the Ice return home to prepare for the Spokane Chiefs, who visit Cranbrook Oct. 3 in Kootenay’s first home game of the 2014-15 season.
Notes: C Luke Philp is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury, but is not expected to miss Saturday’s game in Red Deer; D Rinat Valiev is recovering from surgery on a lower-body injury and won’t be available for three to five weeks; G Mackenzie Skapski was re-assigned from the New York Rangers to the Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL) Friday afternoon. Skapski is eligible to turn pro this year but could still be returned to the Ice should the Rangers elect that is best for his development.