According to Kootenay Ice head coach James Patrick, his team doesn’t know how good the Medicine Hat Tigers really are.
Despite having played them on October 20, and lost 11-1, the division rivals are still a bit of mystery heading into tonight’s road meeting.
“[Our] last game [in Medicine Hat] was our worst of the year [so] they looked like the Red Army to me,” Patrick said, following the team’s loss on Saturday night to Spokane. “I don’t even know how good [they are] because I [couldn’t tell] if it was us being that bad or them being that good.”
While Patrick has only faced the Tigers once, those remaining from last year’s team know that they’ve been Ice-killers for awhile.
In 2016-17, Medicine Hat beat Kootenay in all seven of their matchups during the regular season and outscored the Ice 41-15. They also haven’t lost at home to the Cranbrook club since November 22, 2014.
With the recent trade of captain Cale Fleury to Regina, forward Vince Loschiavo is the only player remaining to have beaten the Tigers while wearing an Ice jersey.
“We can’t be the way we’ve been the last two games in the first period,” Patrick said of their gameplan. “We’re going to have to do something different.”
Losing their past three games, the Ice have had slow starts in their two most recent games over the weekend. On Friday, against Prince Albert, the Ice let in four goals in the opening 20 minutes and on Saturday, against Spokane, the Ice gave up 22 shots in the first frame.
While the team was hampered by injuries to leading point-producer Colton Kroeker, as well as Loschiavo, forward Jeff de Wit and defenceman Loeden Schaufler, the team should have some relief tonight.
While Kroeker and Schaufler should still be sidelined, the other two could potentially return. The team will also be aided by the new players added in the Fleury-trade.
16-year-old forward Cole Muir and 18-year-old blueliner Jonathan Smart might have some initial struggles adapting to their new team, but both could provide Kootenay with some jump.
It will also be a special night for Ice goalie Duncan McGovern, who was recently acquired from the Tigers, as he returns to the city for the first time.
Through 18 games, Medicine Hat has a 12-6-0-0 record and are first in the Central Division and third in the entire Eastern Conference. They also enter the game on a four-game winning streak.
Their offensive leaders in 2017-18 are Mark Rassell, who has 26 points, and defenceman David Quenneville, who has 24 points.
After two weeks away from the team at the World U-17 Hockey Challenge, where he won a silver medal with Team Canada Red, Peyton Krebs will be back in the lineup tonight. Krebs is third in team points with 13 in 15 games, behind only Kroeker (19 points) and Alec Baer (16 points).
While the Ice are tied for second in the Central, their 8-11-1-0 record has them in seventh overall in their conference.
Puck drop at the Canalta Centre tonight is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.