The Kootenay Ice have shortened their roster by one following their three-game road trip to the U.S. to play in a tournament hosted by the Tri-City Americans.
Kurt Johnas, a right wing forward, has been reassigned to the Steinbach Pistons of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League after surviving the first round of releases at the end of training camp.
This leaves 28 skaters with the club, which will head into its final weekend of preseason games in the Crowsnest Pass as the Lethbridge Hurricanes will meet the Ice halfway on Friday, followed by a contest with the Calgary Hitmen on Sunday.
While no one ever likes to lose, it’s important to remember that the preseason is a time for coaches and management to evaluate their rosters and see who earns their place, said McGill.
“I think for the most part, we understand that we have some work to do, but it’s not like we’re disappointed with the weekend,” said McGill. “I don’t take those three losses as losses because it’s an evaluation weekend.
“We want to see where guys excel in areas, we want to see where guys need help in areas and we want to see who wants to make a good first impression.”
McGill and his assistant, Chad Kletzel will be keeping an eye on efforts put in at practice this week and management will make some more releases after the two games against the Hurricanes and the Hitmen.
This was the first time the new coaching staff had the chance to see the players in game time situations, which helped McGill see who was capable of handling certain pressures and responsibilities.
“I had an idea before the weekend, of where I wanted to see guys,” McGill said. “Now after the weekend, I’ve determined for sure that some guys, I’ve expected too much out of them, and some guys can be given more responsibilities.
“I think it’s given us a better indication of where some guys fit, what they can handle, what they can’t handle.”
One player who got a good look during the weekend was Jeff Hubic, mainly because he started last year on defence, but moved up to the forward ranks from time to time to cover injuries as a utility player.
The goaltenders, a young tandem of Mackenzie Skapski, 18, and Wyatt Hoflin, 17, also got a good examination for their efforts between the pipes. Skapski played in two games, while Hoflin guarded the crease for one.
“I think both of them had moments of consistency and both of them had moments of inconsistency,” McGill said. “There are some parts of their game that we have to improve on—puck handling being one of them—and really just making sure they make the saves they need to make.”
Even though it’s only been three games, McGill sees a speedy young team that is very much competitive.
“I think we have to understand within that speed, how to play the game and how to support the puck and how to play together as a group,” McGill said.
“The one thing that I didn’t see was a real solid team play and I think that’s one thing we have to teach.”
Ice Notes: Season ticket holders are invited to come down to Western Financial Place for a pancake breakfast with the Kootenay Ice while picking up their season ticket packages on Saturday, Sept. 15.
Season ticket holders can head up to Coyote Jack’s Grill and flip some flapjacks with the players and coaching staff from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.