If the season series so far is any indication, Friday night could be a high-scoring affair.
In two games in 2017-18, the Kootenay Ice and Red Deer Rebels have settled both with 5-4 scores. On October 12, the Rebels won in regulation and on October 29, the Ice took the night in overtime.
In round three on Friday, both teams will be hungry for a victory.
The Rebels are playing in their seventh and final game of a long road trip, having lost 4-2 on Wednesday in Vancouver, and the Ice are on a four-game losing streak.
Kootenay is expected to have top point-producer Colton Kroeker back in their lineup, after missing a week with a lower-body injury, and there will be a pair of new faces at Western Financial Place.
Following the trade of captain Cale Fleury on Monday, 16-year-old forward Cole Muir joined the Ice on the road in Medicine Hat on Tuesday and 18-year-old defenceman Jonathan Smart should join him to both make their Cranbrook debuts against Red Deer.
In their first game of the post-Cale Fleury era, the Ice lost 4-1 to the Tigers, with rookie Sebastian Streu scoring the lone Kootenay goal.
While the results were naturally disappointing, it was an improvement on their early-season 11-1 loss to Medicine Hat and the Ice even outshot their opponents 31-28.
Speaking following the Tuesday game, Ice head coach James Patrick said that his group needs to be more willing to play in the dirty areas of the rink.
“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.”
Veteran forward Alec Baer agreed, saying that for the most he thought his team was competitive with the Tigers, who are one of the best teams in Canada.
“We need a little more grit, I feel like we’re not a skilled enough team to win on skill alone,” said Ice forward Alec Baer. “[Having] a couple of guys back in the lineup makes these a couple of winnable games for sure.”
While the Tigers (13-6-0-0) sit way atop the Central Division, the Ice (9-12-1-0) and Rebels (8-12-1-0) are still competitive for the second spot.
Following Friday’s game, the Ice will travel to Red Deer for a Saturday rematch, meaning a four-point divisional swing could occur in the standings.
Puck drop for Friday’s game is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. at Western Financial Place.