The Kootenay Ice didn’t leave Cranbrook this Christmas on the best note. The last time the team was at Western Financial Place they were steamrolled 8-1 by the Kamloops Blazers.
It was a performance that head coach Luke Pierce deemed as “embarrassing” and suggested that if they played that way again the next day in Calgary it would be “a huge cause for concern.”
Although they fared better in their final road game before the holidays, only losing to the Hitmen 3-2, the Ice have certainly been anxious over the past week to come back and prove themselves to their fans.
Tonight, they have a huge opportunity to show that they are still a competitive group. The Lethbridge Hurricanes are making their first visit of the year, and with a 4-5 loss and a 4-1 win in their first two games against their divisional foe on the road, the Ice should have a good chance at a victory.
Riding a six-game home losing streak, and giving up a combined 14 goal differential in their last three at WFP, there are ample sources of motivation for the Kootenay squad.
“[Winning at home] is huge for us,” said Ice forward Matt Alfaro following their loss to Kamloops over a week ago. “[Lethbridge] is on a roll right now so we’ve got to make sure that we’re focused during the break and be ready [on Tuesday].”
Despite a fairly tumultuous season, the Hurricanes are in a solid position half-way through their 2016-17 season. Although they traded their top scorer from last year, Brayden Burke, after a disappointing start, Lethbridge is in second place in the Central Division and are still loaded with offensive threats.
Right-winger Tyler Wong is just outside of the top ten point producers in the WHL with 44 in 32 games, while centers Ryley Lindgren and Giorgio Estephan are also both point-per-game contributors so far this year.
‘Canes goalie Stuart Skinner has been a workhorse, playing in 31 of the team’s 35 games and posting a respectable .903 save percentage while facing the second most shots against of any netminder in the league.
The Ice are led by their star goalie Payton Lee who has a .905 save percentage through 25 games, and their top line of Zak Zborosky, Matt Alfaro and Vince Loschiavo, who have scored over half of the team’s goals so far this season.
Based on the teams first two meetings, it should be an energetic and competitive affair even with both teams coming off a week of rest. This is the third of seven games between the Ice and ‘Canes this season.