While the Kootenay Ice had been without the on-ice services of captain Luke Philp since Nov. 21, the 20-year-old was still around and now that he’s gone, a true and complete void exists.
“Luke, even though he wasn’t in our lineup, he was always around,” said Luke Pierce, head coach of the Kootenay Ice. “He’s a leader, whether he’s dressed in your lineup or not.
“This now really opens the door for guys. We’ve seen improvements in that from Matt Alfaro and Zak Zborosky. But we’ve got Tanner [Lishchynsky] and Hof [Wyatt Hoflin] here still that are a big part and were big parts of it from the beginning.
“We’ll go about naming a captain next week. I’m pretty sure, in my mind, who that’s going to be, but we’ll get some more input from some of our players.”
Philp, of course, was shipped off to the Red Deer Rebels Sunday morning in a blockbuster deal that brought a handful of assets to a rebuilding Ice franchise.
Zborosky, who has been sporting an alternate captain’s letter on his sweater, is certainly a candidate and when asked who needs to step up with the former captain no longer in the fold, the first finger he pointed was at himself.
“It’s a big impact. Luke [Philp] was our best player and our captain,” Zborosky said Thursday. “To see a guy go like that, it’s never easy. But we’ve got to move on from that. That’s how it works. It’s a business. We kind of thought it was going to happen, so we kind of prepared for it.
“I have to step up and guys like Alf and Lish, they have to step up, too. Even second-year guys, they can say a lot of things in the dressing room. But we’re going to miss [Philp]. He’s a fantastic leader. Everyone can pitch in to fill that role and we should be okay.”
In their first outing without their captain, Zborosky and the Ice skated to a 3-1 win over the Swift Current Broncos this past Sunday.
With Zborosky’s hometown Regina Pats (17-17-3-3) visiting Cranbrook Friday, the hope is to build off a two-game Saskatchewan road trip that saw the Ice (7-31-3-0) claim three of a possible four points.
“This is only the second time playing them this year, so we don’t know much about them,” Zborosky said. “But they have a few guys that can score. We’ve got to shut down those guys and we’ve got to continue to play how we’ve been playing the last couple games.”
Friday’s game marks the first on a six-game road trip for the Pats, who were thumped 7-3 by the Prince Albert Raiders last Sunday.
“We haven’t seen them in quite some time, but they’re a very aggressive group that plays with a lot of speed,” Pierce said. “They’re similar to us in that they’re young and they make some of the same mistakes that we do. We want to play the same way we played in Moose Jaw [4-3 OT loss Saturday], and to a lesser extent, maybe in Swift Current– a real uptempo and competing.
“We’re not spending a ton of time focused on our opponent. It sounds funny because it’s January and that’s usually when you start to dial into that stuff. But with new players, healthy bodies coming back — guys that hadn’t been in our lineup for a while — we’re still really focused on ourselves and making some subtle changes.”
Puck drop between the Ice and Pats is slated for 7 p.m. Friday at Western Financial Place.