The Kootenay Ice (3-10-4-1) only managed to salvage a single point in their Saskatchewan road trip this past weekend.
After being blown out by the top-in-the-CHL ranked Regina Pats 10-2 on Wednesday, the Ice continued to falter with a 6-0 thumping from the Prince Albert Raiders on Friday.
Before the contest, the Raiders were the only team in the WHL with a worse record than the Ice but according to coach Luke Pierce, Prince Albert simply came out stronger than his team.
“It was the first time Payton [Lee] has had any real struggles this year,” Pierce said on Monday. “[But] I didn’t think we did a good enough job of helping him out.”
The next night, the Ice took on the Saskatoon Blades with rookie Jakob Walter starting between the pipes.
Although Walter was sharp, and the Ice managed to outshoot their opponent for the first time since their win against Brandon on Sunday, October 30, the Ice lost 3-2 in overtime.
“It’s a game you hope you can win and think you can win,” Pierce said, explaining that the Blades had more energy in the closing stages of the night.
A major factor in the Ice’s lack of success on the road trip was their special teams. Kootenay was only able to score on one of 14 chances with the man advantage, while their opponents put up seven in 14 chances against them.
“Our penalty kill was not very good, and I take some of the blame for that as coach,” Pierce said. “I thought our power play was able to generate some good chances [but] we just couldn’t finish.
“Our special team were not special for us.”
Overall, the Ice’s numbers over the past three games have been pretty abysmal. They didn’t score a single first-period goal, they were outshot 139 to 92 by their opponents collectively, and their penalty kill was only 50% effective.
The team now has a 0.306 winning percentage through their first 18 games, and have let in 77 goals, the highest total of any team in the WHL.
With Western Financial Place being used for the Grand Slam of Curling event taking place in Cranbrook this week, the Ice are looking to get back to their winning form while practicing in Kimberley.
“Hopefully the bus rides are good for the [players],” Pierce said, saying they need to regroup and rediscover the confidence they while playing against Brandon before heading out on the road.
The Ice have a week of training before playing their next game on Saturday, October 12 in Edmonton. The Oil Kings are in the 20th spot in the WHL standings and should make for a good opponent for Kootenay to get back on track.