Kootenay Ice forward Matt Alfaro is checked by Mark Rassell during their game against the Medicine Hat Tigers on Friday

Kootenay Ice forward Matt Alfaro is checked by Mark Rassell during their game against the Medicine Hat Tigers on Friday

Ice brace for Cougar attack

The Prince George Cougars, unbeaten-on-the-road, come to play against the winless-at-home Kootenay Ice on Wednesday night.

Brad McLeod

“We’ve got real tough opponents coming in here next week … it doesn’t get any easier [and] we’re going to have to keep digging a little harder,” coach Luke Pierce said after last Friday’s 4-1 loss to the Medicine Hat Tigers.

The defeat was the second tough one in a row for the Kootenay Ice (1-7-3-1) who fell in both games of their home-and-home series with the Tigers by a total two-day score of 14-4.

Saying it doesn’t get any easier is a massive understatement and on Wednesday it is about to get a lot harder.

The Prince George Cougars (11-2-1-0) have been frighteningly good this year and they’ll make their first and only visit to Cranbrook this season entering with a road record of 6-0 while collectively outscoring home opponents 25-13.

The Cougars also sit at the top of the league, first overall in points, while the Ice — who have been beaten in all six of their home games this season — are at the very bottom of the WHL.

Pulling out their first home win against a team as good as the Cougars will not be easy and coach Luke Pierce knows that they will need to be at their best if they want to be competitive.

“We’re expecting a top end team [and] they’re off to a real good start,” Pierce said on the Cougars. “They’ve got a very experienced group and [are] good on the special teams [and] both sides of the puck — they’re going to definitely be a difficult challenge.”

The Cougars have earned a reputation this year for putting up big totals and starting off very strong. They have 51 goals in 14 games so far this season, which is the fourth-best total in the WHL. 23 of those goals came in the first period which is the best opening frame goal efficiency in the league.

“[We’ve] got to be ready to start on time. We’ve seen different versions of ourselves come out to start games,” Pierce said. “We’re going to need our goaltender to be good early on and give us a chance [and] get us some stops.

“[Then we’ll] try to force more play in the offensive zone.”

The Ice’s statistics are much less impressive than the Cougars. They have 29 goals for and 50 against this year, which ranks 17th and 20th, respectively, in the league. They do, however, have two players near the top of some individual WHL statistics leaderboards.

Zak Zborosky’s 10 goals are good enough to put him in second place in goal-scoring amongst all WHL players, while Payton Lee’s 0.929 save percentage is second best amongst goalies who have played three or more games.

According to Pierce, however, Lee is unlikely to return to the Ice’s lineup tomorrow after missing both games last week with the flu.

“It’ll be a game-day decision … it was nice to have Payton back on the ice [in practice but] it’s unlikely that he’ll be able to start,” Pierce said, indicating that he could see him taking the backup role against the Cougars.

Whoever is in net, though, Pierce believes that his forwards and defencemen need to play physical from the start for them to have any shot at a win.

“I think if you give it back [physically to] teams like that and you can start to frustrate them,” he said. “They’re used to controlling the physical play every night and [this opportunity is] great for our group right now because it’s exactly what we’ve been talking about — our need to play a lot harder and sacrifice ourselves — we’ll see how we can match up with them.”

Cougars forward Brad Morrison has started out hot in his fourth WHL campaign, with a team-leading 17 points. Winger Jesse Gabrielle meanwhile is on his own tear, having put up seven points in his last four games.

Starting goaltender Ty Edwards has also been no slouch with eight wins, a 2.18 goals against average, and 0.920 save percentage.

Tomorrow’s Ice-Cougars match is their first meeting in Cranbrook since January 2015, when Kootenay won 7-4 off of then-rookie Austin Wellsby’s first career WHL goal, which was the game-winner.

Wellsby and the Ice will look to conjure up some of that magic from the past in tomorrow’s Goliath matchup against the Cougars.

Puck drop is at 7 p.m at Western Financial Place.

Just Posted

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

Students at Creston Valley Secondary School put together an art installation of a replica residential school room. (Photo by Kelsey Yates)
Creston students create art installation of residential school room

The replica was decorated with a small bed, school uniform, and notes written with pleas for help

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

1914
It happened this week in 1914

June 13 - 19: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the archived newspapers… Continue reading

Cranbrook Arts has opened the doors of their  new gallery space to the public with their inaugural exhibit, Kootenay’s Best.
‘Kootenay’s Best’ opens Cranbrook Arts’ new gallery

This exhibit has been in the works for the past several months and features the work of more than 50 emerging and established artists from across the Kootenays

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Most Read