It may seem odd for a coach to be pleased with a 4-1 loss, but when it comes against a team that beat you 11-1 in your last meeting, it’s not surprising.
According to Kootenay Ice head coach James Patrick, speaking in a Twitter video posted after the Tuesday night game in Medicine Hat, his team had a good effort against the Tigers.
“I thought [that] in the first 15 minutes we played almost exactly how we have to against them,” Patrick said. “We gave up a couple scoring chances, but not much. Every goal [against] was self-induced and we just had some individual breakdowns.”
With a new lineup following the trade of captain Cale Fleury to the Regina Pats on Monday, 16-year-old forward Cale Muir made his Ice debut while defenceman Jonathan Smart had not yet arrived.
After early solid defensive hockey, with some offensive pressure, Kootenay made their first major mistake at the midway point of the first period.
An innocent looking rush for Medicine Hat ended up being a 3-on-2 as forward Ryan Jevne found himself alone in front of Duncan McGovern and buried a pass from Ryan Chyzowski.
McGovern, who was traded from the Tigers to the Ice on October 23, had no chance on the play as his former teammate put the puck through his five-hole with speed.
Minutes later, Tigers captain Mark Rassell put in the eventual game-winner as he tipped home a point shot from Dalton Gally and caught McGovern cheating too far on the side of the net.
Although the play went to a review for high-sticking, it was eventually ruled a good goal.
Rassell, the top goal scorer in the Central Division, then put in his second of the night and 19th of the season after he was slashed by Ice defenceman Zac Patrick on a breakaway and given a penalty shot.
Beating McGovern glove-side with a perfect wrist shot, memories of the 11-1 night back on October 20 were surely flooding through the minds of the Ice bench.
Fortunately, rookie Sebastian Streu managed to stop the bleeding with only three seconds remaining in the first frame as he grabbed a giveaway in the high slot and beat 18-year-old netminder Jordan Hollett.
The impressive shot was Streu’s second goal of the year and second of his WHL career which started this season after coming over from Germany.
Coming out of the intermission down, but not for the count, the Ice were an improved team in a scoreless second period and tied the Tigers in shots 10-10.
In the final frame, the Ice were the better team, but couldn’t find a way to get enough genuine scoring chances or beat Hollett, who was rock solid in his fourth straight win.
“We refused to take away the goalie’s eyes,” Patrick said. “That’s been a theme we’ve been hammering home [and] the only way [our] team is going to score is to get some dirty goals.”
Closing out the night in style in front of the hometown crowd, Rassell completed a hat-trick in the latter half of the third as he scored off a quick faceoff play.
As Tigers fans celebrated a fifth consecutive victory, the Ice suffered their fourth loss in a row — their toughest stretch of the year so far.
“We gave up too many odd-rushes [even though] possession time and offensive time was pretty even,” said Ice forward Alec Baer. “We just have to get more pucks to the net, bodies [in front] and get some greasy [goals].”
With the loss, the Ice now have a record of 8-12-1-0 and are in third place in the Central Division. The 13-6-0-0 Tigers remain atop the division, while Kootenay’s opponent on Friday, the Red Deer Rebels (9-11-1-0) are in second.
“I thought we had a lot more scoring chances than the last time we were in [Medicine Hat],” Patrick said. “I liked the effort for large parts [of the game] and a lot of guys worked hard.”
With a home-and-home series against Red Deer over the weekend, the Ice have a golden opportunity to climb back up the ladder after their recent slump.
ICE CHIPS: Top Ice point-producer Colton Kroeker remained sidelined with a lower body injury, while forward Jeff de Wit also sat with a lower body injury. In his first game since returning as a silver-medalist with Team Canada Red at the 2017 World U-17 Hockey Challenge, Peyton Krebs was named the game’s third star on Tuesday night.