Kootenay Ice forward Matt Alfaro kneels at the conclusion of the first period in the team's game against the Kamloops Blazers on Saturday

Kootenay Ice forward Matt Alfaro kneels at the conclusion of the first period in the team's game against the Kamloops Blazers on Saturday

Kootenay Ice head into break on losing note

Kootenay rebounds from 8-1 thrashing by the Kamloops Blazers with valiant effort in 3-2 loss to Calgary Hitmen.

After getting demolished on Saturday night 8-1 by the Kamloops Blazers, the Ice had something to prove on Sunday afternoon in Calgary.

Unfortunately for them, the Hitmen and their goalie Cody Porter were also desperate for a win.

After losing 6-2 at home on Saturday to the Kelowna Rockets, Calgary’s head coach Mark French was disappointed by his team’s effort and was adamant that they needed a response the next day.

Ice head coach Luke Pierce, for his part, railed against his team’s loss to Kamloops, calling it “embarrassing” and an “unacceptable effort.”

With two less-than-pleased coaches heading into the game, the Ice and Hitmen both fought hard in a close game.

A tripping penalty to Hitmen forward Matteo Gennaro just nine seconds into the game sent Kootenay to an early powerplay and Ice defenceman Ryan Pouliot, in his 53rd game, finally ripped in his first career WHL goal.

The Hitmen levelled the game at 1-1 late in the first period off a controversial goal that saw potential interference on Ice goalie Payton Lee, who was turned around when Andrei Grishakov tapped the puck by him.

In the second frame, the Ice almost took a lead as Zborosky earned a breakaway, but he was turned aside by Porter.

Jakob Stukel then roofed the puck at the end of a Calgary 2-on-1 to give them a lead. Austin Wellsby evened the scored midway through the period with a tap in fed to him by Michael King, sending both teams into intermission at 2-2.

Although the game looked destined for overtime, with less than seven minutes left, Jordy Stallard threw the puck into traffic and beat Lee who didn’t even react behind all the bodies.

The Hitmen held onto the 3-2 lead to the final buzzer, and have now won all four matches that the teams have played together so far this season.

Kootenay outshot Calgary 35-28 and Porter was named the first star with his tremendous 33 save effort. Vince Loschiavo’s seven-game goal-scoring also came to an end on Sunday afternoon, as Porter got the better of the Ice’s top line several times.

Despite the better game, the Ice came out of Cowtown with nothing to show for their effort. At the midway point of the year, the team has 20 points in the standings (6-22-7-1). Last season they had 14 points (6-28-2) at this time.

Although it’s not an ideal situation for the team to go into the holiday break, after a series of rough losses, Alfaro said after Saturday night’s game that the team would still take advantage of the time off, no matter how they finished.

“We have to enjoy this break, we have to just be kids, [and] put this first half behind us and just move on,” he said. “When we’re making the drive back on Boxing Day, we really have to focus in and get our minds wrapped around that second half and [know that] we’ve [still] got a long way to go.”

The Ice return to Western Financial Place for a date with the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Tuesday, December 27, the first of a home-and-home series which concludes the following night.

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