The Kootenay Ice were shut out for the sixth time this season in a 4-0 loss to the Red Deer Rebels on Tuesday night at Western Financial Place.
It’s the second straight loss for the Ice, which returned from a three-game road trip into Saskatchewan over the weekend, falling 4-2 in Prince Albert on Saturday after collecting a pair of wins.
Kootenay was two players short of a complete lineup, missing five players to injury. The club also refused to comment or update the situation with sniper Tim Bozon, who, according to social media chatter, was hospitalized in Saskatoon during the road trip.
The Rebels came into Cranbrook with three wins in their last 10 games, and were scrappy right from the start as they fought for one of the last remaining playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
Red Deer scored a trio of goals in the first period, and rode the lead till the end of the game, sealing it off with an empty netter.
Brooks Maxwell opened the scoring less than five minutes in the first frame, while Wyatt Johnson went bar down in the slot 10 minutes later.
Aspen Sterzer made it a three-goal deficit for Kootenay, sniping the short side top corner on a backdoor pass during a Red Deer powerplay.
Ice assistant coach Jay Henderson was not happy with the effort in the first 20 minutes.
“Lots of silly mistakes, to put it bluntly,” Henderson said. “I don’t think we were very good, we were flat footed, and they’re a desperate hockey club. They were playing desperate and they out-competed us and outworked us in every aspect of the game.”
On the flip side, it was a great start Red Deer, which are tied with the Prince Albert Raiders for eighth place in the conference.
Sterzer, a Rebels forward who hails from Canal Flats, said the win was a team effort.
“They’re a little short staffed, which is obviously tough, but we just came into this game and it’s desperation time for us right now,” Sterzer said. “We’re trying to make the playoffs—most lines on the team were going tonight.”
Rebels goaltender Patrik Bartosak was brilliant in keeping the Kootenay Ice off the scoreboard. Sam Reinhart, Zach Franko and Jaedon Descheneau all had quality chances to score, but the Red Deer netminder shut the door every time.
Henderson also said the Ice didn’t elevate their game after digging themselves into a three-goal hole.
“Obviously, we came out pretty flat. I didn’t like our compete in the first period, and it did improve slightly, but not to where it has to be,” Henderson said.
“…I didn’t like the effort and again, we can use the excuse that we’re short on bodies, but that doesn’t work for me.”
The two teams held each other scoreless through the second period and most of the third. Ice goaltender Mackenzie Skapski, who made 29 saves, vacated his net with three minutes remaining in the game for an extra attacker, but Rhyse Dieno scored the token empty net goal for a 4-0 final.
NOTES: Ice captain Sam Reinhart was named the WHL Player of the Month on Tuesday. Reinhart tallied 10 goals, 22 assists in 13 games in February
Kootenay Ice Anti-Bullying Night
Take a stand with the Kootenay Ice on Friday for their Anti-Bullying Night when they face the visiting Medicine Hat Tigers.
Following the same format as School Spirit Night, all fans are encouraged to wear pink clothing, and schools throughout the East Kootenay will in attendance.
The three winning schools will be selected by anonymous judges based on which ones are the loudest, get on board with pink apparel and bring the most spirit to the building.
Additionally, Western Financial Group has supplied pink foam pucks that will be tossed out onto the ice during the second intermission for the opportunity to win more prizes.