When the Kootenay Ice bus rolled into Prince George Sunday night, it had already covered more than 2,000 km of highway since it first left Cranbrook last Monday, Nov. 30.
A road that started as a long one has seemingly gotten longer and longer with each passing day, as the Ice have gone winless since leaving Cranbrook.
With only one game remaining on a season-long five-game road trip through the WHL’s B.C. Division, the comforts of home are drawing near, but head coach Luke Pierce doesn’t want that reality to draw attention away from the task at hand — Tuedsay’s tilt with the Cougars.
“For us, as a group right now, I certainly hope [the players] aren’t looking past it and looking forward to getting home, the same as I hope they’re not looking back and seeing we’ve lost seven [games] in a row,” Pierce said.
“Every day is another opportunity to be better. There’s no point looking back in the past on what’s gone on. It’s a new day. But you can’t look forward into the future either and wait for this [streak] to end. You have to make it end and work your way through it.
“It’s a real big game for us Tuesday and regardless of that outcome, Saturday [at home against the Swift Current Broncos] will be a real big game again. We’re in that one-day-at-a-time mode right now.
“It’s no different than when you’re fighting for your lives in a playoff race at the end of the year — you’re just one day at a time.”
Putting an end to a season-long seven-game losing skid will be a tall task Tuesday in Cariboo Country as the Cougars (17-9-1-1) pose a serious challenge for an Ice squad (6-23-2-0) that is both road weary — having played four games in five nights to open the trip — and battered.
When the Ice departed Cranbrook, they were without the services of forwards Luke Philp, Jaedon Descheneau, Shane Allan, Zak Zborosky and River Beattie. While Allan returned to the lineup upon the completion of his four-game suspension, centre Dylan Stewart was then lost to a head injury Saturday night in Victoria. Defenceman Tyler King also remains unavailable as he rehabs following off-season knee surgery.
The hope is the host Cougars will have bus legs of their own after having returned to Prince George following a quick two-game trek that took them to Everett before playing a Sunday-evening match in Vancouver against the Giants.
“We’ve got a real tough opponent who plays a real physical style that’s aggressive,” Pierce said. “They’re at home and also playing real good hockey right now.”
The road wasn’t unfriendly to the Cougars this past weekend as they shutout the Silvertips 3-0 Friday before edging out the Giants 6-5 Sunday. In all, the Cougars have rattled off five wins in a row since being knocked down by the Kamloops Blazers Nov. 27.
Puck drop between the Ice and Cougars is slated for 8 p.m. (Mountain) from the CN Centre in Prince George.
Following Tuesday’s contest, the Ice hit the road back to Cranbrook where they will host Jon Martin and the Swift Current Broncos (8-17-3-1) Saturday night on A&W Teddy Bear, Toque and Mitten Toss night at Western Financial Place.