There’s going to be tough competition at Western Financial Place for the Kootenay ICE, as the Prince Albert Raiders will be in town on Saturday night.
The Raiders are the top-ranked team in the Canadian Hockey League.
“They have so much depth,” said head coach James Patrick about the matchup.
“They might have the best six defencemen in the league. All are big and they can skate and move the puck. If you have good defenceman in this league you can play with anyone.”
The ICE have played the Raiders twice this season, both of which conlcuded with a 7-2 loss and a 5-1 loss in November.
“It’s going to be a great challenge. I know we are a better team than when we faced them in [November]. I’m looking forward to it, I’m looking forward to the challenge I do think our kids have got better —they have grown,” said Patrick.
The Raiders are 40-6-0-2 on the season, with their most recent loss coming on Jan. 24 against the Vancouver Giants.
“They are the most skilled junior team that I have seen in my two years,” added Patrick.
The ICE will have to play their system for the whole 60 minutes, which will be key if they want to be successful against the Raiders, said Patrick.
“I just have to reinforce how we have to play. Smart puck decisions and we don’t want to beat ourselves. We want to come out play our system, play the right way. It will be a good challenge, but let the chips fall,” said Patrick.
Fans will get their first look at the newly acquired defenceman Chase Hartje, who came over at the trade deadline from the Brandon Wheat Kings. He has played in five games with the ICE, all on the road, and has one goal and four assists for five points in that time.
“He’s a really solid two-way defenceman. He skates well, moves the puck well. He’s a 19-year-old who is strong, but a really good skater,” said Patrick. “Chase has played really well. I really like his mobility at the blue line, it’s something we haven’t had here.”
The ICE are coming back from a six-game road trip where they went 2-3-1. At the end of the road trip, there were a couple injuries included Connor McClennon and Martin Bodak not playing in the final game.
“[Connor] is feeling good, he’s back and ready to go. We will see tomorrow, Martin Bodak hasn’t practiced all week, we will see how he is feeling and find out in the morning. We have had a number of guys in the sick bay. The flu has been going around, so we have had a few guys miss practice this week just for that, but I think they are all turning the corner,” said Patrick.
The ICE are 10-30-7-1 as they look to gain some wins as the season slowly comes to an end.
The club will be hosting it’s Pink the Rink night, where the players will don pink superhero themed jerseys.
“We play our best hockey when we have had great crowds and enthusiastic crowds, I’m hoping for the same,” said Patrick.
Fans are encouraged to wear pink as they aim to raise awareness of anti-bullying. Puck drop is 7 p.m.