The Kootenay Ice climbed to the top of the league in penalty minutes on Sunday afternoon and it ended up hurting them in the standings.
Playing their third game in three days, a day after an emotional 2-1 win in Spokane, the Ice fell to the Edmonton Oil Kings 4-3, at home, in a game marred by lack of discipline.
Although the Ice didn’t officially give up a goal on the penalty kill, the 14 minutes they spent in the box didn’t help, according to head coach James Patrick.
“The whole [coaching] staff had one message before the game… we wanted to be disciplined, we didn’t want to take penalties, and we wanted to get all four lines involved,” he said. “That’s not what we did [and] every penalty we took was a [legitimate] penalty.”
Despite their eventual downfall, the Ice started off the game by getting a power play just three minutes into the night. It took awhile, however, for Kootenay to get into the game.
“[On that power play], we just mis-passed and mis-passed,” Patrick said. “Our power plays had been really good coming into [the night], but maybe fatigue was a bit of a factor there.”
A tripping penalty for Martin Bodak then took the Ice off the advantage and after a minute of 4-on-4, Edmonton went to work on their own power play.
One second after Bodak returned, Trey Fix-Wolansky sniped home a top corner marker to give the Oil Kings an early lead.
With five minutes remaining in the period, defenceman Cale Fleury got his team on the board with a shot from the high slot delivered by Colton Kroeker. It was the captain’s first goal of the season and sparked the team.
Just a minute later, Brett Davis joined the party and put in his second of the year from Bodak and Peyton Krebs, getting the crowd at Western Financial Place on their feet.
The Ice exited the frame on a high, but when they returned for the middle period, the rink tilted in favour of the Oil Kings.
A pair of quick goals from Matthew Robertson and Kobe Mohr gave Edmonton a lead under four minutes into the second and ended the night for Kootenay goaltender Bailey Brkin.
“I didn’t like the last two goals [and] I wasn’t really happy with the first one either,” Patrick said of the decision. “I just felt that [Brkin] wasn’t looking sharp … he was like a lot of our guys, I didn’t think he was as ready to play as he needed to be.”
Kurtis Chapman, who had earned a win the night before over the Chiefs, stepped in and played well, but was beaten at the midway point of the frame by Davis Koch who took a one-time from Colton Kehler on a delayed penalty call.
“I thought we became unravelled in the second period [and very] undisciplined,” Patrick said. “We lost so many battles [and Edmonton] kept the puck in our zone.”
A major turning point then occurred near the 16-minute mark of the period, when Fleury made a dangerous cross-check to the back of Davis Murray behind the Ice net.
Murray had difficulty leaving the ice and didn’t return to the game, while Fleury was handed a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct.
Although the Ice killed off the ensuing advantage and improved in the third period, the two-goal hole ended up being insurmountable.
Keenan Taphorn put them close at the halfway point, taking a pass from Michael King and beating goalie Travis Child with a top corner shot, but it wasn’t enough.
“It was a good performance [overall] but I think [in] the second period we kind of shot ourselves in the foot,” Taphorn said. “We made it a game in the last ten minutes [though] and I think we had lots of chances to tie it up.”
The Ice ended the night with only 24 shots, while the Oil Kings had 31, and neither team had any official tallies on the game’s nine power plays.
For Patrick, the lack of success came down to the penalty trouble, not only that it lead to two goals, but how it disrupted the team’s flow and unevenly distributed playing minutes.
“When Colton Kroeker has to kill penalties [and] you’re taking 20 minutes of penalties, he’s killing half of them [and] you’re taking one of your best offensive players [away from getting scoring chances],” Patrick explained. “He and Brett Davis [spent too much time penalty killing] and then it leaves Peyton Krebs on the bench for longer periods of time [too].”
While there are a few notable offenders, Patrick said that he deserves the majority of the blame.
“I haven’t done a good enough job of getting the message across [about discipline],” he said. “We have the same guys taking the same penalties [and] it’s going to be addressed. All I can do is confront guys and address them with it and then take away ice time, or take away their chance to put the sweater on.
“That’s going to happen if it continues.”
Overall, Patrick said the night was another ‘learning lesson’ and this year’s Kootenay Ice are still a work in progress.
“We are still a bit of an immature team. We had a big character win last night and now we feel really good about ourselves and this just shows that Edmonton is a good team,” he said. “They outshot us, they out-chanced us and I thought they won more battles and out-skated us.
“I still feel there were positives in our game, but I’m a little disappointed right now.”
After the marathon weekend, the Ice will take a rest day and then return to practice on Tuesday to prepare for a two-game road trip to Moose Jaw and Swift Current next weekend.
The Ice currently stand at a record of 2-2-1-0 and are in second place in the Central Division. Their 83 penalty minutes, however, are unmatched in the entire WHL.
1st Period-1, Edmonton, Fix-Wolansky 3 (Warm, Cap), 6:38. 2, Kootenay, Fleury 1 (Kroeker, Veloso), 15:04. 3, Kootenay, Davis 2 (Krebs, Bodak), 16:12. Penalties-Bowman Edm (tripping), 3:12; Bodak Ktn (tripping), 4:37; Murray Edm (high sticking), 7:03; Pouliot Ktn (slashing), 13:46; Robertson Edm (interference), 14:07; Pavlenko Edm (high sticking), 19:18.
2nd Period-4, Edmonton, Robertson 1 (Murray, Kope), 2:11. 5, Edmonton, Mohr 2 (Rudakov, Bowman), 3:27. 6, Edmonton, Koch 2 (Kehler, Kemp), 12:03. Penalties-Bodak Ktn (tripping), 13:40; Fleury Ktn (major-cross checking, game misconduct), 16:11.
3rd Period-7, Kootenay, Taphorn 1 (King, Pouliot), 11:48. Penalties-Sheen Ktn (interference), 5:54.
Shots on Goal-Edmonton 9-16-6-31. Kootenay 11-3-10-24.
Power Play Opportunities-Edmonton 0 / 5; Kootenay 0 / 4.
Goalies-Edmonton, Child 2-2-0-0 (24 shots-21 saves). Kootenay, Brkin 1-1-1-0 (13 shots-10 saves); Chapman 1-1-0-0 (18 shots-17 saves).