The Kootenay Ice will look to make it two wins in a row Friday night when they travel to Medicine Hat to face the Tigers.
Backed by a shutout performance from goaltender Wyatt Hoflin and fuelled by lone-goal Luke Philp, the Ice (2-7-0-0) snapped a five-game losing streak Wednesday night with a 1-0 victory over the Moose Jaw Warriors.
The Ice take their game on the road for a Central Division tilt with the Tigers (2-4-1-0) in which they hope to maintain and build upon the momentum from a hard-working Wednesday win.
“We worked real hard and that’s good. We need that every night,” Philp said. “If you’re going to win in this league you have to work. We’ve seen that the last two games now. We can’t be happy with it though. It’s got to be something that is an automatic.”
There’s no better time to establish that sort of automatic approach, with the Tigers reeling from a 6-2 home-ice loss to the Regina Pats.
In all, the Tigers have dropped three consecutive regulation outings, including a 7-0 thumping at the hands of the Lethbridge Hurricanes back on Oct. 9.
In what is shaping up to be a competitive Central Division, particularly at the top, divisional points will always be important and Friday’s contest provides the Ice an opportunity to leapfrog the Tigers from sixth into fifth in the division.
“Med Hat has got a lot of offensive threats,” Philp said. “Really fast forwards who are able to score. We’ve got to be mindful of that and we’ve got to show up with the same mentality. We’ve got to get in and work hard in their building. I think if we start to work early, the rest will take care of itself. It’ll be a good test for us.”
One of the Tigers’ key offensive threats won’t be in the lineup Friday, as 20-year-old forward Trevor Cox remains unavailable due to an upper body injury (six to eight weeks).
The 5-foot-8 speedster posted 29 goals and 109 points in 69 games last season, and was off to a strong start with four goals and eight points in six games in 2015-16.
Even with the absence of Cox, a strong contingent of threats remain, led by right wing Cole Sanford (3G, 7A).
“Sticking to the same game plan we had [Wednesday], trying to get pucks deep and make them play as far away from our net as possible,” Hoflin said of keys to success against the Tigers. “If we can do that, it’s going to take a lot of pressure off our defencemen and give us a win, hopefully.”
While Hoflin was strong and steady for the Ice in a 34-save shutout Wednesday, goaltending has been an area of struggle for the Tigers with Nick Schneider (2-3-0, 4.45 GAA, .852 SP) and Evan Johnson (0-1-1, 5.87 GAA, .814 SP) sharing the load thus far.
With the WHL’s 20-year-old deadline rolling through Thursday, the Tigers hope to have addressed that situation with the acquisition of overage puck-stopper Austin Lotz from the Everett Silvertips courtesy the 20-year-old waiver wire.
Lotz, a native of St. Andolphe, Man., is a veteran of 164 WHL games (73-61-7-8, 2.95 GAA, .902 SP, 10 shutouts).
As of print deadline Thursday, there was no word as to whether or not Lotz will be available for the Tigers Friday night.
Puck drop between the Ice and Tigers is set for 7:30 p.m. (MT) at the Canalta Centre in Medicine Hat.
Following Friday’s outing in Medicine Hat, the Ice return home to host the Prince Albert Raiders Saturday night (7 p.m.) at Western Financial Place.
Video highlights: Moose Jaw Warriors 0 at Kootenay Ice 1 (Oct. 14)