The number five is a hot one in Cranbrook, and for the Kootenay Ice, that kind of heat isn’t a good thing.
Dating back to Oct. 3, the Ice have lost five consecutive games and in all but one of those defeats, surrendered at least five goals to the opposition.
To make matters worse, the Ice head into Wednesday’s tilt with the visiting Moose Jaw Warriors facing the prospect of having five regular skaters out of the lineup due to injury.
If there’s one bright side, the last outing for the Ice was a 4-3 defeat to those same Warriors — Saturday in Moose Jaw — in which the visitors carried the play for the bulk of regulation, only to fall in the final 90 seconds of the third period.
“It’s so disappointing not to get a win because the message isn’t getting reinforced properly by getting results of victories,” said Luke Pierce, head coach of the Kootenay Ice. “We’ve got to continue to build from that [game] and the biggest thing is trying to be as positive as we can.
“Our work ethic can’t be understated enough times and I think we realize that now as a team. We need some of our veteran, second-year players who are still quite young to start to play a lot more responsibly and give us opportunities and some depth.”
Over the five-game skid, offensive production for the Ice has been significantly concentrated amongst a small group of individuals, including centre Luke Philp (one goal, five assists), right wing Zak Zborosky (two goals, one assist) and rookie right wing Max Patterson (two goals, one assist).
“We need better efforts from everyone every night,” Philp said Tuesday prior to practice at Western Financial Place. “Last game against Moose Jaw, we had a good bounce-back game after the game before against Brandon.
“We know [the Warriors] are a fast team. They’ve got a really good top line there that generates a lot of their offense. We’re going to have to be aware when certain guys are on the ice and be responsible out there.”
Centre Brayden Point, recently returned to Moose Jaw from the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, is a part of that “really good top line” and he burned the Ice Saturday, earning a goal and an assist to help boost the Warriors.
In four games since his return to western Canada, the 5-foot-11 native of Calgary has racked up six goals and 12 points.
For the Ice, Patterson is one of five regular skaters expected to be out of the lineup Wednesday when the Warriors visit town.
The Kamloops native was knocked out of action late in Saturday’s contest in Moose Jaw, felled by an upper-body injury.
Joining him are defencemen Tyler King (knee, indefinite), Tanner Lishchynsky (knee, day to day) and Cale Fleury (upper body, two to three weeks).
King underwent off-season knee surgery, while Lishchynsky was hurt during pre-season action. Fleury joined the two overagers when he was injured Wednesday in Saskatoon.
Rounding out the group, and perhaps the biggest loss, is right wing Jaedon Descheneau, who suffered an upper-body injury last Tuesday in Prince Albert. Having returned from last week’s four-game eastern swing, Descheneau was re-evaluated and is expected to miss an indefinite amount of time.
“Injuries suck. You can’t control them,” Philp said. “But when somebody gets hurt, someone else can step up and someone else is going to get more opportunity. Other guys just have to be ready to play and be ready to fill those shoes that are missing.”
Puck drop between the Ice and Warriors is slated for 7 p.m. Wednesday at Western Financial Place.
From there, the Ice leave town for a quick trip to Medicine Hat, where they will face the Tigers (Friday at 7:30 p.m.) before returning to host the Prince Albert Raiders Saturday (7 p.m.) at Western Financial Place.
Around the ‘Dub: The Kamloops Blazers’ front office was shuffled Monday as GM Craig Bonner resigned for a pro scouting role with the NHL’s Dallas Stars, according to Jon Keen of Radio NL Kamloops. In Bonner’s place, the Blazers hired Stu MacGregor as the team’s new vice-president and GM. MacGregor was previously with the Blazers in various capacities, including as GM, from 1984 to 1995. Most recently, he was director of scouting for the Edmonton Oilers… Victoria Royals G Coleman Vollrath (3-1-0, 1.00 GAA, one shutout) was named CHL Goaltender of the Week Tuesday… Warriors C Brayden Point (5G, 4A in three games) was named WHL Player of the Week Monday…