Ice forward Noah Philp stands over a falling Cougars player during their came on October 26

Ice forward Noah Philp stands over a falling Cougars player during their came on October 26

Ice enter Wheat Kings weekend with optimism

Strong play against Prince George has Kootenay Ice hopeful they’ll pick up first home win with Brandon in town this weekend.

Brad McLeod

The Kootenay Ice lost their seventh straight home game on Wednesday night against the WHL-leading Prince George Cougars but it hasn’t discouraged them from thinking they might finally pick up a win in Cranbrook this weekend.

So far this season, the Ice are at the bottom of the league standings through 13 games but look to be headed in a positive direction based on their play against the Cougars. They play the Brandon Wheat Kings on Friday and again on Sunday.

“[Wednesday was] a hockey game that we could have and should have won,” said coach Luke Pierce following the 5-3 loss, in which the Ice outshot their opponents 35-32. “With time and a little more confidence, I think [we’ll] win more of those games. I’ll take that [though] because the mistakes that we made are fixable. I can’t fix desire and heart and effort, so as long as we don’t relapse in that department, I think things will start looking up.”

The team doesn’t have to wait long to build upon their most recent effort, but they once again find themselves facing a strong team.

“We get another real strong team [in Brandon, here on Friday] which is hopefully a good thing for us because we’re up at that pace right now,” Pierce said. “[If we] bring the same effort, clean up some mistakes and capitalize on some of those chances – and improve our execution – I think you’ve got a good recipe.”

The Wheat Kings won the Ed Chynoweth Cup last season and are led by the projected first overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, Nolan Patrick, who is considered day-to-day with an upper-body injury.

Despite Patrick’s probable absence, the Wheat Kings still have plenty of firepower on both ends of the ice. Forwards Tanner Kaspick, Ty Lewis, and Stelio Mattheos all have a point-a-game or more so far this season, and defenseman Kale Clague has a whopping 10 points in only four games and was named last week CHL Player of the Week.

The Ice, however, are unlikely to be intimidated after putting up a good performance against Prince George and demonstrating that they can play an effective physical game.

While on paper the loss to the Cougars may have seemed simply like a continuation of their downward spiral, it was actually a very close game and the outcome was not for lack of trying from the Kootenay side.

“It [was] a tough one to lose, we were in the game from the get-go and I don’t think it was a matter of our work ethic,” said Ice forward Austin Wellsby after the game. “We did a good job of pushing the pace early, but throughout the game we just had a few costly turnovers and mishaps in our [defensive zone] that ended up costing us and that’s how we ended up with a loss.

The Ice competed well in the opening frame and came out with a 1-1 tie, thanks to Wellsby’s first goal of the season. He is now two-for-two in games against the Cougars held in Cranbrook. The last time the two teams met here, on January 25, 2015, Wellsby got the game winner on his first ever WHL goal.

Despite the strong start, a powerplay chance for Prince George deflated the Ice in the first half of the second period.

A little over five minutes into the frame, Ryan Pouliot was called for high-sticking and let the Cougars lethal man advantage get a go-ahead marker. The goal was scored by Jansen Harkins, who buried a perfect feed from Kootenay forward Dylan Stewart who errantly threw the puck right on his opponent’s stick in an attempt to alleviate the danger they were facing.

The Cougars then furthered their lead off an odd-man rush caused by an offensive zone pinch-attempt by Cale Fleury. Brogan O’Brien made no mistake on the shot and left the Ice down a pair at the midway point, with his second goal of the night.

The Ice rallied however, quickly making sure they headed into the break with a tight game on their hands.

With under four minutes left in the period, Pouliot managed to spring Matt Alfaro on a breakaway with a hard cross-ice pass. A trailing Cougars defenseman caused Alfaro to slow up and with Noah Philp flying to the net, he threw it on goal.

While the Cougars goalie got a piece of Alfaro’s shot, the puck fluttered in the air and Philp batted it in perfectly to narrow the score to 3-2. Following the goal, Kootenay continued to buzz with their top players lining up together, but despite a very close chance for Zak Zborosky, the Ice headed into the second down one.

They didn’t come out of the second period unscathed, though. Kaeden Taphorn, who only recently returned to the lineup after a facial injury, left the game clutching his arm and did not return.

“[What happened to Taphorn] is just real unfortunate circumstance, he’s had shoulder problems and you feel awful for the kid,” coach Luke Pierce said on the rookie winger. “He’s been such a great kid for us and we’ll miss his presence in our lineup. We’ll wait and see a little more, but it doesn’t look good at this point and all we can do is really hope the best for him.”

Two quick calls against Prince George within the first 30 seconds of the third period, gave the Ice a perfect opportunity to get back in the game, but despite strong play from their top unit they couldn’t capitalize. Pierce said it was, unfortunately, the turning point of the evening.

“[We had] almost a full two minutes of 5-on-3… that changes the dynamic of the game and that [was] the difference tonight,” he said. “They didn’t have one first year player in their lineup today, [they’re] a good hockey team and they capitalized on our mistakes and we didn’t [do the same to them].”

Following the Ice’s blown power play opportunity, Harkins put in his second goal of the night. The Cougars leading scorer, Brad Morrison, then sealed their victory with an empty-net goal in the last two minutes.

Despite the disappointing ending, Pierce was encouraged by his team’s play — especially their physicality and desire to compete.

“[I] hope they’re getting the message [about making physical sacrifices], that’s why getting a win is so important, so the messages get reinforced,” he said. “But we have to be mature enough to realize that there were a lot of good things [that we did against the Cougars].”

After Friday’s game, the Ice face the Wheat Kings again in a rare Sunday afternoon game. A two-game series at Western Financial Place should provide an excellent opportunity to stop their Cranbrook losing skid and get their season on track. While it won’t be easy, there is a belief in the Kootenay locker room that they can get wins over the weekend.

“[Brandon] is obviously a strong team but we need to build off of the work ethic we had tonight,” Wellsby said. “I think if we play like we did [against the Cougars], we should have more success.”

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C's COVID-19 dashboard shows the peaks and valleys of cases prior to the record daily report of 132 on April 9, 2021. (Dashboard image)
Interior Health has record day of COVID-19 cases

132 cases reported Friday, April 9, more deaths in Vernon hospital outbreak

Tri-Kon will be delivering concrete barriers on Friday afternoon for a patio space that will be shared between Soulfood Farm to Table and Sakura.Trevor Crawley photo.
Outdoor patios in the works for downtown core

Efforts already underway to set up outdoor patios on Baker St. from four local business

The BC Wildfire Service will be conducting an ecosystem restoration burn near the old Kimberley airport next week. BC Wildfire Service file.
Ecosystem restoration burn planned for old Kimberley airport area next week

Burn could begin as early as Monday, April 12, 2021

From wall hangings to plant hangers, keychains and shelves, Radiant Knots creates a variety of pieces to suit for any taste and style.
Cranbrook Arts is Looking Radiant

Cranbrook Arts Featured Artist for the month of April is Radiant Knots.… Continue reading

The Peach is adhering to the mandatory mask protocols put in place by the Provincial Health Officer on Nov. 19. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Interior Health doesn’t echo B.C.’s daily COVID record

80 new cases reported Thursday, April 8, compared to 91 the day prior

The new 6,300 square foot Cranbrook Food Bank facility is located at 1624 Industrial Rd 2 and is open to the public Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. (Corey Bullock/Cranbrook Townsman file)
New Cranbrook Food Bank officially open to the public

The new facility is located at 1624 Industrial Rd. 2 and open Monday, Wednesday, Friday

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
Man finds men who rescued him from drowning in B.C.’s Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person when the pandemic ends

Tyson Ginter, 7, is proud of his latest Hot Wheels he recently received by Quesnel RCMP Const. Matt Joyce. (Photo submitted)
B.C. Mountie handing out toy cars to light up children’s faces

‘A lot of times it will be the only interaction they have with the police,’ says Const. Matt Joyce

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Most Read