Kootenay Ice host Calgary Hitmen in Saturday afternoon ‘Teddy Bear Toss’

Kootenay Ice host Calgary Hitmen in Saturday afternoon ‘Teddy Bear Toss’

Team hoping to provide excitement for home crowd, send message to rivals over the weekend

As the team gets set to host their annual ‘Teddy Bear Toss’ on Saturday afternoon, Kootenay Ice head coach James Patrick knows that it’s not an event you can really prepare for.

“I’ve seen a few on video when I’m pre-scouting teams and it’s amazing. I saw one where a player scored and he was doing an interview on the ice, they were cleaning up the Teddy Bears and it was a 20-minute ordeal,” Patrick said. “He was signing autographs and they almost carried him around the ice on their shoulders… and I was thinking, ‘holy smokes, this guy still has to play a game and there [are] 55 minutes left.

“I don’t know if it’s something you can prepare for, [but] I want us to be hungry to score goals [and] I want us to do the little things needed to score goals — put pucks in the paint, get bodies to the net, and drive off the backside.”

Following a two week plus absence from Western Financial Place, while they were on a 5-game road trip across the BC Division, the Ice should return to a packed house. The ‘Teddy Toss’ night is always one of the year’s most well-attended games and this season has already proved to include a resurgence of community support.

Having had more success at home than they did during the 1-3-1-0 road swing, Patrick is hopeful that the Ice can put on a good show.

“I hope there is a lot of excitement in the building and we’ve felt the energy off the home crowd [in our past few home games],” he said. “With the Teddy Bear toss thrown in, [that should] make for a really fun night.”

Adding to the intrigue of the game, is the team’s visitor for the night, the Calgary Hitmen. Kootenay’s biggest historical rival, it is the first of back-to-back, back-to-back games between the two teams.

After Saturday’s game, the Ice play in Calgary on Sunday, and after the Christmas break, the teams play each other again in Cranbrook on December 27 and in Calgary on the 28th.

“I haven’t [seen anything like it before] in the regular season,” Patrick said. “I’ve seen back-to-back, but not four in a row, so it’s unique. The fact that we’re in the same division and we’re fighting for the playoffs, I think that just ties into it really being like a playoff series.

“We can only take it one game at a time [though].”

Both teams will be missing a few key players throughout the mini-series, due to international commitments at the U-20 World Junior Championships in Buffalo, New York. Ice forward Gilian Kohler has already departed for Switzerland’s selection camp and defenceman Martin Bodak will soon join Slovakia.

For Calgary, the team’s top two defencemen (and scorers) will be away, with Carolina Hurricanes prospect Jake Bean with the Canadian National Team, and breakout sophomore Vladislav Yeryomenko with Belarus.

“For both teams, depth is going to be important and you’re going to have to have different guys stepping up for you,” Patrick said. “It’ll be a test for our younger players, the 16 and 17-year-olds. It’ll be a bigger role for them, so how they respond and how they fare will play a big part in the outcome of these games.”

The Ice will also be adjusting to life without Vince Loschiavo, after the veteran winger was traded to the Moose Jaw Warriors on Monday in exchange for a prospect and a draft pick.

“[Loschiavo] was a popular guy who was here for a long time and he’s a really likable person,” Patrick said. “It affects the team that we’re going to miss a really good person, but saying that it’s an opportunity for younger players to step up and fill that role.

“Whether it’s Gilian Kohler or [Cole] Muir or Sebastien Streu or Kaeden Taphorn, guys like that are going to have a bit of a bigger role now.”

Although the Ice had a shutout win and plenty of positive moments in their tough tour of BC, there are plenty of aspects of their game that Patrick would like to see improve over the weekend.

Their league-worst 18-goals-in-136-attempts power play is certainly a major concern.

“We didn’t get a power play in [our second most recent game in] Victoria and then we got a 5-on-3 in Vancouver, [but] I know we had a scoring chance and I was happy with that,” the coach said. “We just weren’t able to put it away. Certainly, we’ve got a long way to go on it though [and] I’m no closer to being satisfied.

“We [have to be more] willing to accept the mentality that you have to muck it up, you have to get pucks in the paint, [and] you have to try and shoot pucks with net front presence.”

At 13-17-2-0 and clinging on to third place in the Central Division, the Ice have a great opportunity to distance themselves from the 10-17-3-1 Hitmen in the next four games. The rivals have not met since the first two games of the 2017-18 season and both clubs have changed their personnel drastically since then.

“I know they’re fighting for a spot, just like we are [and] winning games just like we are,” Patrick said of the Hitmen. “They’re losing to the same teams we’ve been losing to, so it’s been a really similar path.

“No question now, that these divisional games back to back, when you’re close in the standings, [are] huge games. You don’t even need to talk about it. The players themselves know [and it’s just about] executing your game plan.”

In their last ten games, both the Ice and Hitmen have four wins, five losses and either an overtime or shootout loss.

Calgary has the sixth best penalty kill in the WHL (81.3 percent) and Kootenay is 12th (78.3 percent).

Colton Kroeker continues to lead the Cranbrook club in points with 27 in 29 games, followed closely by 16-year-old rookie Peyton Krebs who has 25 in 27 games and Alec Baer who has 24 points in 32 games.

Puck drop is at 4 p.m. at Western Financial Place on Saturday and fans are encouraged to bring as many new toques, mittens or teddy bears as they like — wrapped in clear plastic bags — which will be donated to local charities and organizations following the game.

Just Posted

City council deferred moving forward on a proposed development in Wildstone, requesting a meeting with the developer to get clarification on project details. Photo submitted.
Cranbrook city council debates proposed Wildstone development

Cranbrook city council held off on moving forward with a proposed apartment… Continue reading

Interior Health is reporting a COVID-19 exposure at Selkirk Secondary in Kimberley. Bulletin file.
COVID-19 case identified at Selkirk Secondary in Kimberley

Interior Health is conducting contact tracing

Cranbrook Arts will finally open the doors to their brand new gallery space on Friday, June 18th, 2021 at 4pm. To see what is behind these doors, be sure to check out the exhibit, Kootenay's Best, running until Labour Day weekend. (Cranbrook Arts file)
Cranbrook Arts’ inaugural exhibit, Kootenay’s Best, opens this Friday

The exhibit features over 50 Kootenay-based artists and will run until Labour Day Weekend

The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League met for their AGM and announced a number of new initiatives, new awards and changes in their executive committee, as well as the starting date for the 2021-22 season. Paul Rodgers file.
KIJHL announces start dates for 2021-22 season

Season set to begin Oct. 1 with league still following all health guidelines

Calvin Dickson photo.
Severe thunderstorm watch in effect for East Kootenay

Conditions favourable for the development of thunderstorms, hail and heavy rain

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Grace (left), a caribou that was born in a maternal pen north of Revelstoke, is alive and well said the province. It appears she even has a calf. Maternity pens aim to increase caribou calf survival by protecting them from predation until they are older and less vulnerable. (Contributed)
For the first time in years, caribou numbers increasing near Revelstoke

North herd growing but south herd still concerning

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

Kelowna General Hospital. (File photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna General Hospital declared over

Three people tested positive for the virus — two patients and one staff — one of whom died

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

Most Read