Ice defence piling up the assists

Kootenay generating offence from the defensive corps.

It’s always nice to score goals, but they don’t usually come without some help.

For the Ice, a lot of that help has been coming from the defensive corps.

While Kootenay is getting consistent scoring throughout their top-six forward lineup, the defence is also jumping up to help out on the offensive end of things.

Rinat Valiev had season high three assists last Saturday during a 6-2 win against the Moose Jaw Warriors. Jagger Dirk added a pair of apples, while Landon Peel also scored a goal.

“It’s a good thing,” said Peel. “I know McGill has been talking to us about jumping in on the rush and being the fourth man in, and I think we’ve been doing that, so that’s really helping our team be successful.”

Peel contributed a pair of helpers in Regina during a 6-1 Ice win, while Tyler King has three assists in as many games.

“It definitely helps, anytime we’re contributing to get the pucks to the forwards so they can make a play or get a goal,” said King, “so it’s always important for us to make a good play and try to get them a scoring chance.”

Along with helping out on the offensive end of the game, the defence is also being a factor against the other team the scoresheet. Over the last three games, the Ice have given up only five goals.

A lot of that is certainly due to the work of goaltender Mackenzie Skapski, but the whole team, including the defence, deserves some credit.

“We worked a lot in our own zone during practice and I think it’s really shown the last few games,” Peel said.

King agreed.

“I think we’ve got a lot of improvements back there and everyone’s been stepping up right now and it’s been helping us win games,” he said.

The team will have to be defensively sound when they face the Tigers on Wednesday night in Medicine Hat.

The Tabbies (28-17-3-0) used to reign on top of the Eastern Conference standings, but now occupy fourth place with 59 points. Kootenay is only five spots back in eighth place, with 54 points.

Even without former team captain and Vancouver Canucks prospect Hunter Shinkaruk, who had season-ending surgery on his hip earlier this month, the Tigers are still very much a dangerous team.

The home team has won every game when they’ve met—Kootenay with a 4-3 win at Western Financial Place while the Tigers took a pair of games in Medicine Hat.

“It’s a tough rink to play in and they’re a good team this year,” said Peel, “but I think we got to go in there and really start off hot early and get to their defence and get behind their defence.”

Curtis Valk, a overager for the Tigers, has been on fire, registering at least a goal over the last seven games, and racked up 12 points over the span.

“He’s definitely a great player and you just got to be aware of him when he’s on the ice and take a couple more looks so you have a better gap on him so he doesn’t get those chances,” said King.

In addition to Valk, the Tigers are also getting consistent offence from Trevor Cox, Cole Sanford and Miles Koules, while Tommy Vannelli leads the team as the top scoring defenceman.

Goaltender Marek Langhamer, who represented the Czech Republic at the World Juniors, has a respectable 2.57 goals against average and a save percentage of 0.910.