On Saturday, it was not the Kootenay Ice’s night. With 1,739 fans in the crowd for the team’s annual Teddy Bear Toss night, the game was spoiled by a poor performance by the Ice.
The team didn’t get the bounces they wanted early, and a big, hard-hitting and skilled Kelowna Rockets team caught Kootenay off guard routing them 7-3.
Payton Lee, who has been solid for the Ice all season, had a rare shaky effort and let in five goals on 17 shots before being pulled in favour of Jakob Walter for the third period.
Head coach Luke Pierce was not overly concerned with his team’s effort and simply regarded the game as a rare off-night for a group that, while not picking up many wins, has been consistently competitive.
Tonight, they will look to re-find their game against the Swift Current Broncos. It’s the second of a three-game homestand for the Ice and their third meeting of the season with the Broncos. In both of their previous meetups, Swift Current beat Kootenay 4-3 in regulation.
The Broncos (15-10-3-4) are currently sitting pretty in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, while the Ice (6-19-7-1) are in second last place.
Both teams, however, are in the midst of three-game losing streaks. The Broncos were bested by the CHL’s top team — the Regina Pats — in two games last week by a combined score of 14-4 before losing to Lethbridge in overtime 5-4.
Before the Kelowna game, the Ice had two heartbreaking losses — to Spokane 4-3 and Regina 5-4 in overtime.
The Ice had the chance to get two practices in before tonight’s contest, which Pierce believes is crucial to keep the team focused at this time of the year.
“At this time of year, it’s important that you stay busy,” he said Saturday night. “You can have guys start to drift off and start to think about the [Holiday] break but everyone is dealing with the same thing.
“We’re just trying to keep a routine and stay sharp. We’ve got a team coming in that has to travel. They have a lot of speed [so] we’ll have to change gears a little bit from [how we played Kelowna].”
Puck drop is a 7 p.m. at Western Financial Place.