The Kootenay Ice had five power play chances on Tuesday night but couldn’t capitalize on any of them. Their opponents, meanwhile, went one-for-two on their man advantages.
According to head coach James Patrick, that pretty much summed up his team’s 5-2 home loss to the Portland Winterhawks.
“[The special teams were] a perfect characterization of our whole game, [there was] just a lack of discipline and a lot of selfishness,” he said. “I thought we were just trying to play [too] individual, too one-on-one … we get in the zone and we try a saucer pass over two guys sticks across the ice.
“The power play could have been the difference for us and [instead] it gave them life.”
Coming into the night, Patrick knew that the now 15-4-0-0 ‘Hawks were a very talented team. With six NHL prospects, including first-rounders Cody Glass and Kieffer Bellows, the chances of winning on skill alone were slim.
“They’re a team that had way more high-end players [than us],” Patrick said. “But it’s pretty disappointing when they backcheck harder than you and they block shots better than you.”
While the coach said that he was not upset by the Ice’s start, he was very disheartened that they seemed to give up on their game plan before facing any major adversity.
“I thought, for about seven or eight minutes at the start, we played our game plan really well [but] then we self-destructed,” Patrick explained. “The penalties are 4-0 [in our favour] and we’re yelling at the ref and arguing.
“We stopped playing because the ref didn’t make a call… it’s immature and it’s my fault because obviously [they] feel that they can get away with that, that it’s allowed around here.”
While the majority of Kootenay’s players had a rough night, goalie Bailey Brkin stood on his head in the loss, making 50 saves on 55 shots.
“He gave us a chance,” Patrick said. “He did all we could ask of him and I’m just really disappointed in how we crumbled.”
After setting the tone with early high-paced back-and-forth hockey, the Winterhawks broke a scoreless first period at the midway point, with Skyler McKenzie finishing a two-on-one with Bellows.
Making 20 crucial stops in the opening 20 minutes alone, Brkin frustrated the ‘Hawks while his team managed a few dangerous chances of their own.
Early in the second, Lane Gilliss scored his second goal of the year after Henri Jokiharju found him with a breakaway pass. Beating Brkin with a top-corner wrister, the Ice started to crack ever so slightly.
“We can’t allow that many odd-man rushes to come down on us,” said Kootenay forward Cam Hausinger after the game. “We’ve got to be better in the neutral zone [and] be a better defensive team.”
Hausinger brought the game to within one, two minutes later, as he picked up the rebound of a deadly Sebastian Streu rush opportunity, but 2-1 was as close as the score would get.
After four of their own power plays, the Ice ended up penalty killing after Peyton Krebs was given a two-minute penalty for holding and an additional two minutes for unsportsmanlike words used to describe the call.
With the extra man, Portland defenceman Brendan De Jong rocketed in his first marker of the season with a heavy slap shot that beat a screened Brkin.
In the third period, the visitors sealed the deal with another pair of goals from their top line. Six minutes in, Bellows capitalized on an in-tight passing play with McKenzie and Glass, and four minutes after that, McKenzie tipped in a shot from Jokiharju, assisted again by Glass.
Although Gilian Kohler put in a late goal on a rush with Krebs and Colton Veloso, it didn’t have an impact on the outcome.
“I feel like [our scoring chances] were there [and it was] probably one of the highest [total shot count] we’ve had this season, but we’ve got to score more garbage goals,” Hausinger said. “Goals around the crease, goals in that area that they protect so much [is] something we’ll work on in practice.”
Named the night’s third start, Brkin was overall pleased with his recent bounceback in between the pipes.
“I was having a really rough, rocky road [a few weeks ago] but with help from Dennis [Sproxton], our goalie coach, and [Doug] Swanson, our mental skills coach, I was able to find answers and it allowed me to play good these last couple of games,” he said. “[A 50-save night] definitely helps your confidence.”
While Brkin admitted that the Portland roster was intimidating, he is learning that he can handle anything that’s thrown at him in his rookie season.
“Cody Glass [is] a great hockey player and you hear these great things about these guys and how they’re great scorers and great passers and everything,” he said. “You have to [treat them like] they’re all first rounders or all great hockey players [though], because they are.
“It’s the Western Hockey League [and] you just have to be honest to every guy.”
While the play of Brkin, along with positive games from Streu and defenceman Sam Huston were the only really encouraging elements of the game that Patrick witnessed, he is hopeful that seeing a premiere club like the Winterhawks up close, can have a positive effect on his group.
“I hope they learn that it’s hard to be successful in this league if you don’t want to block shots [and don’t pay attention to details],” Patrick said. “It really frustrates me when they’ve got high-end players, leading scorers of this league who out backcheck the so-called leaders on our team. If you’re not that good of a player, you’d better backcheck and you’d better block shots.
“[Portland] put a clinic on and we didn’t.”
Snapping a two-game winning streak but holding strong in second place in the Central Division with a 10-13-1-0 record, Kootenay’s next game is on the road against the Edmonton Oil Kings on Friday night.
In their only meeting so far this season, the Oil Kings beat the Ice, but are the bottom-feeders of the entire league with a 5-15-2-0 record.
1st Period-1, Portland, McKenzie 17 (Bellows, Glass), 10:37. Penalties-Colina Por (tripping), 2:51.
2nd Period-2, Portland, Gilliss 2 (Jokiharju), 2:00. 3, Kootenay, Hausinger 5 (Streu, Davis), 4:48. 4, Portland, De Jong 1 (Texeira, Colina), 19:49 (PP). Penalties-Ginnell Por (tripping), 2:07; Bellows Por (slashing), 9:39; Gricius Por (roughing), 14:25; Krebs Ktn (holding, unsportsmanlike cnd.), 18:46.
3rd Period-5, Portland, Bellows 16 (McKenzie, Glass), 6:38. 6, Portland, McKenzie 18 (Jokiharju, Glass), 10:25. 7, Kootenay, Kohler 3 (Krebs, Veloso), 13:11. Penalties-Ginnell Por (interference), 1:29; Gilliss Por (inter. on goaltender), 15:12.
Shots on Goal-Portland 20-19-16-55. Kootenay 11-11-17-39.
Power Play Opportunities-Portland 1 / 2; Kootenay 0 / 5.
Goalies-Portland, Kehler 14-2-0-0 (39 shots-37 saves). Kootenay, Brkin 4-7-1-0 (55 shots-50 saves).