The Ice are cruising down the final stretch of the WHL regular season and are heading across the border to do battle with the Tri-City Americans in their only meeting of the season on Friday night.
The Ice and the U.S. Division teams—with the exception of Spokane—meet only once a year and take turns going on the road to meet up with each other. Last year, the Americans, Winterhawks, Thunderbirds and Silvertips came up to Western Financial Place, but Kootenay has already made most of their appearances below the 49th parallel this season.
After facing Tri-City, the Ice will head into Spokane for their fourth and final meeting on Saturday.
Kootenay is coming off of a pair of losses to the Red Deer Rebels, with only one win in their last three games.
Kootenay Ice head coach Ryan McGill wasn’t happy with the team’s mental preparation, a key he identified as one of the reasons the team struggled against Red Deer.
“We’ve provided the foundation for how the team needs to play to be successful against anybody, and we’ve proved that,” said McGill, referencing the their success in the second half of the season. “Now they have to bring the intangibles to the game that give them the opportunity to have success within the game as individuals, but most importantly, as a team.”
Ice forward Jordyn Boyd was in the U.S. Division last year, playing for the Everett Silvertips, where he faced the Americans eight times.
“I know that they’re a really skilled group,” said Boyd. “The got a good top-six, they can put the puck in the net. They got quality top-six D-men, too, so they’re just a good, all-around team.”
Boyd said the team needs to be focused right from when the bus pulls into Kennewick on Thursday evening, and channel that energy into the game.
“We’re just going to have to stick to our game plan, which is play a full 60, because you can’t take that team lightly, they’re one of the best teams in the Western Conference,” added Boyd.
McGill notes that the team has improved their performance on the road, but wants everyone to sharpen up even more, especially since Kootenay doesn’t have home-ice advantage for the playoffs.
“You have to be really sharp in your preparation and understand that you got to be a simpler team on the road and you really got to stay focused for any types of changes in momentum, and that’s the biggest thing we need to be aware of.”
The Ice need seven points in order to clinch a playoff spot and prevent the Hurricanes from overtaking eighth place.