A gruelling eastern road trip didn’t allow for as much practice time as Kootenay Ice head coach Luke Pierce might have liked.
Upon returning to Cranbrook, Pierce and the Ice have played a mid-week Wednesday game and after a pair of weekend games face a Tuesday tilt with the Regina Pats.
The quick turnaround between outings hasn’t left much time for a young team that has much to work on.
“It’s been really hard, I’m not going to lie,” Pierce said. “We have hardly had a practice in what seems like three weeks. When you have so many details to work on, it’s tough. But that’s where we have to take the lessons from each game and apply them. Not just shrug it off and move on to the next day. We’ve got to make sure we’re getting better.”
Of particular note is the struggling power play for the Ice.
The man advantage has been not exactly advantageous for the Ice to this point in the season.
Converting at a rate of 6.5 per cent, the Ice power play is 22nd in the 22-team WHL.
“At times, maybe we’re forcing things a little too much,” Pierce said of the power play. “I think we can be a little more selective with our shots, but then we have other nights where we don’t get a shot on net because we’re passing it around too much. It’s a fine line.”
Perhaps Tuesday is the night the Ice power play gets going as the Pats roll into Cranbrook with a struggling penalty kill that has only been successful 66.7 per cent of the times it has been called upon.
“We need to get ready and follow the game plan,” said goaltender Wyatt Hoflin. “If we don’t pas our problems on to the guy behind us or the guy beside us, we’ve been successful. Right now, we’re causing our own kind of problems in our own end and on the ice surface altogether.
“You’ve got to understand what you’ve got to do to be successful within your role and I think we should be okay.”
Hoflin has had very little trouble finding success within his role.
The 20-year-old netminder has been a steady presence between the pipes for the Ice, battling to the bitter end in a 1-0 loss to the Prince Albert Raiders Saturday and putting up a 34-save shutout performance last Wednesday with the Moose Jaw Warriors in Cranbrook.
The native of Spruce Grove, Alta., has made 98 saves over his past three games, good for a .939 save percentage.
In 2014-15, the Ice opened the season 3-8-0-0. In 2015-16, they’re off to a 2-9-0-0 start.
“Last year, we got a couple players back that helped us,” Hoflin said. “But this year we’re moving forward with the group that we have and we’re just going to have to learn to play 60 minuts and win hockey games.”
Puck drops between the Ice and Pats at 7 p.m. on ‘2-for-1 Tuesday’ at Western Financial Place.
Notes: The Ice are expected to be without D Tyler King (knee, indefinite), D Cale Fleury (upper body, one to two weeks), RW Max Patterson (upper body, day to day) and RW Jaedon Descheneau (upper body, indefinite) when the Pats visit on Tuesday…