Declan Hobbs (pictured right) won’t start in net against Calgary on Friday but will compete for the starting job if his strong play continues.

Declan Hobbs (pictured right) won’t start in net against Calgary on Friday but will compete for the starting job if his strong play continues.

Ice players fight for opening night roster slots

Sophomore coach Luke Pierce is leaving the door open for both rookies and veterans to earn their spot in the lineup this week.

  • Sep. 20, 2016 11:00 a.m.

Brad McLeod

Luke Pierce may only be in his second season as the head coach of the Kootenay Ice, but he is determined to not let past experience shape his team. After a disappointing end to the preseason this past weekend, where the team lost both their exhibition contests in Crowsnest Pass, AB, Pierce has made it clear that no one’s place is safe, no matter how long they’ve been in the league.

“Normally you have everything set [but we’ve still] got 5 lines of guys up front and 9 defencemen, so I can’t tell you who [is on] our opening day lineup yet,” Pierce said. “The competition continues [and] we’ll see how practice goes and put the guys that give us the best chance to win in the lineup on Friday.”

While Pierce found some consolation in the team’s 0-5 preseason, saying he was impressed by the resiliency of some the younger players and that, at the very least, it “prevents you from being over confident”, he’s been disappointed with the preparedness of a few of the older players.

“We need some of our veteran players to be much better and lead the way,” Pierce said. “For the most part, our young guys have done a real good job of staying around and hanging in there. I think [that makes the] focus really shift to your veteran players. We’ll see who can establish themselves.”

Pierce suggested that while veteran players may not have fully transitioned into ‘season mode’ quite yet, time is running out if they want to make sure they’ll spend the rest of the year in the WHL.

“Some of our veteran players need to start finding their groove,” he explained, saying that Jason Wenzel, a defenceman who was released from the team over the weekend after spending 57 games with the Ice last season, “just wasn’t there”.

“Some of our younger guys maybe passed [Wenzel]. We need to see some [more players] start to separate.”

Although the door is clearly open for new names to rise and old ones to fall before the ink dries on the opening night scorecard, there are a couple players Pierce likely wouldn’t mind putting down in permanent marker.

“Payton Lee will start Friday night,” Pierce said confidently on their goaltending situation. “He’s a 20 year old guy [and] we’re going into a tough building and he’s earned that, there’s no question.”

The other 2 [goalies] have played better as of late,” he added, however. “Declan [Hobbs] is the best we’ve seen him since camp started, so that’s encouraging for us. I think again, that competition is going to play into it [and] at the end of the day, the right guy will probably separate a little bit.”

The other name that Pierce hinted will likely be on his opening lineup is Zak Zbrovsky, but his position isn’t guaranteed either. Unlike his teammates however, his conflict is with a higher league. Zbrovsky has been spending the week at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament with the New York Rangers of the NHL and his immediate return to Cranbrook is therefore not guaranteed, although likely.

Pierce said he spoke to Zbrovsky after his first game in Traverse City, and hopes that if he is back with the Ice this season, he’ll continue to be the leader he was for them last season

“He wasn’t real happy with the way he played [in that first game with the Rangers] so I hope he plays better there and can come back feeling good,” Pierce said. “Even if he struggles a little bit [though], that just adds motivation for him wanting to get off to a real good start [with the Ice].”

Although the Ice are in a bit of a lull this week, as far as games go, with preseason over and the regular season not quite here, the stakes have never been higher. The remaining 28 players on this squad still all have a chance to impress during practice to see who will don a Kootenay Ice sweater for the season opener in Calgary, on Friday night.


Just Posted

With high temperatures forecasted for the week and into the next, Interior Health is offering some tips on how to keep yourself safe from heat-related illness. (Pixabay)
Interior Health offers safety tips as temperatures soar

“Too much heat can be harmful to your health.”

Kurt Swanson’s dog Kona takes a break from the heat on the Summer Solstice near Cranbrook, B.C. (Kurt Swanson photo)
Very warm temperatures forecast across the Kootenays this weekend

Nelson, Castlegar forecast to hit 39, Cranbrook 37

The view from the Eager Hill lookout in the Cranbrook Community Forest. (Corey Bullock/Cranbrook Townsman file)
New ‘Padawan’ trail at Eager Hill now open and ready for use

The 5km green flow trail is suitable for all ages

The City of Cranbrook and the Ktunaxa Nation raised the flag of the Ktunaxa Nation at the arches entrance into the city’s downtown core during a ceremony on Monday, June 21. Photo courtesy City of Cranbrook.
Ktunaxa Nation flag raised at downtown arches entrance

The Ktunaxa Nation flag was raised at the Cranbrook arches — the… Continue reading

Kimberley Search and Rescue were able to quickly respond to a call for service and transport an injured mountain biker to East Kootenay Regional Hospital over the weekend. Kimberley SAR file photo.
Kimberley Search and Rescue respond to injured mountain biker on Bootleg Mountain

Kimberley Search and Rescue responded to a call for service this past… Continue reading

Pictured is Mrs. O and her grade 4/5 class at St. Mary’s Catholic School in Cranbrook. Mrs. O challenged her class to read 36,000 pages in May and they far surpassed that goal. The students were then allowed to choose her fate. (Corey Bullock/Cranbrook Townsman file)
WATCH: St. Mary’s Catholic School grade 4/5 class wins reading challenge

Teacher lets students choose fate after reading over 47,000 pages in one month

Penticton mayor John Vassilaki and Minister of Housing David Eby have been battling over the Victory Church shelter and BC Housing projects in the city. (File photos)
Penticton heads to court over homeless shelter as BC Housing audit begins

The city was not satisfied with the response from Minister David Eby regarding the ongoing situation

People enjoy the sun at Woodbine Beach on June 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin
BC Hydro assures customers it has ‘more than enough’ power to weather the heatwave

Despite an increase of pressure on the Western grid, blackouts are not expected like in some U.S. states

Air Canada planes sit on the tarmac at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Pilots say no reason to continue quarantines for vaccinated international travellers

Prime minister says Canada still trying to limit number of incoming tourists

Six United Way chapters around the province are merging into United Way B.C. (News Bulletin file photo)
6 United Way chapters merging around B.C.

Money raised in communities will stay in those communities, agency says

Val Litwin is the latest candidate to declare his bid for the B.C. Liberal leadership. (Litwin campaign video)
Political newcomer joins contest for B.C. Liberal leadership

Val Litwin a former B.C. Chamber of Commerce CEO

Golden Ears Mountains, captured in May 2021. (Black Press Media files)
2nd year of day passes required for entry into 5 provincial parks launches in B.C.

Pilot program seeks to protect the environment by addressing visitor surges amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Lincoln Mckoen. (YouTube)
Anglican bishop of the central Interior resigns over sexual misconduct allegations

Lincoln Mckoen was elected as a bishop of the Territory of the People region last year

Left to right: Doug Ford, Jason Kenney, Brian Pallister (photos via Wikipedia)
Pollster paints a perilous premier picture

As we know, our friends at Angus Reid Polling like to take… Continue reading

Most Read