The Kootenay Ice’s road swing got off to just about as bad of a start as you can imagine.
After winning their first two home games over the weekend against the Brandon Wheat Kings, the Ice met up with the Regina Pats for their first of a three-game Saskatchewan road trip on Wednesday.
The Pats, who were just announced to have moved up to the top spot in the CHL’s weekly rankings earlier that day — meaning they are now considered to be the top major junior team in the country — proved themselves brilliantly by rolling over the Ice 10-2.
Although last week’s WHL goalie of the week Payton Lee was brilliant early in the first, by the time the final frame rolled around he was on the bench after having let in six goals on 39 shots
In relief of Lee, backup Jakob Walter felt the continued onslaught of the Pats incredibly potent offense and let in four more goals on 21 shots.
There wasn’t much for the Ice smile about that night, having been outshot 62 to 32 while letting in two power play goals and failing to convert on all six of their own man advantages.
Defenseman Fedor Rudakov picked up his first two goals of the season, the first being the result of a fortunate blunder by Pats’ goalie Jordan Hollett and the second being a nice low wrister.
Despite their unfavourable goals against, the Ice goalies were also a bright spot — especially Payton Lee, who piled up a number of highlight reel saves.
The Ice will hope that Wednesday’s loss was simply the result of facing an incredibly hot team and that they will easily be able to find their game again on Friday.
The Pats are now on a seven-game winning streak and rank as the number one team in the Eastern Conference, while Friday’s Ice opponent, the Prince Albert Raiders, are the only team below Kootenay in the WHL standing and have lost their last four games.
The Ice have yet to face off against Prince Albert this season, however, the Raiders beat them in all four contests they played last year.
The Raiders only have one home win in eight games at the Art Hauser Centre this season, while the Ice only have a single road win so far after seven games away from Cranbrook.
The Raiders have been led so far this year by left winger Simon Stransky who had 17 points in 16 games.
After, the battle-of-the-bottom against the Raiders, the Ice face the Blades in Saskatoon on Saturday night. Kootenay lost their only prior meeting with the Blades this season, falling 3-2 at home on October 1.
Saskatoon has struggled early this year with a record of 7-8-1-0, although they are currently still hanging on to the second wild card spot in the conference. Right winger Mason McCarty has been their top offensive spark with 14 points in 16 games.
Much like the Ice however, the Blades top player has been their goaltender. Logan Flodell was recently named the WHL Goaltender of the Month for September and October, and went 6-3-0-0 with a 1.99 goals-against average, a .940 save percentage, and picked up two shutouts in that time.
The Ice could be looking at a goaltending showdown on Saturday night, but for both weekend games, Kootenay should be in much better shape to pick up some points then they were on Wednesday.
The team will not play again in Cranbrook until Tuesday, November 15 when they take on Medicine Hat, in order to accommodate the Grand Slam of Curling ‘Tour Challenge’ event taking place at Western Financial Place from November 8 to 13.
After their Saskatchewan trip, the Ice have six days off before playing in Edmonton, against the Oil Kings on Saturday, November 12.