While the Jackson 5 might think it’s as easy as one-two-three, the Kootenay Ice would likely disagree.
The Cranbrook club hasn’t had a three-game winning streak since the 2014-15 season, despite having had seven chances to do so since then.
Heading into Regina tomorrow night with two straight wins under their belt, the Ice will be looking to finally make it three-in-a-row.
“[We] just [have to] stick to our game and play our systems,” said Ice forward Cameron Hausinger of the game against the Pats. “Our game plan [is] nothing complicated… when we play our game and work hard, we win games.
Kootenay showed excellent resiliency in their weekend wins over the Seattle Thunderbirds and Red Deer Rebels, but will have stiffer competition against the Pats.
In their first meeting with Regina this year, at Western Financial Place, the Ice did not execute their strategies consistently and lost 6-3.
Although the Memorial Cup hosts have a 9-6-2-0 record this season and are third in the Eastern Conference, they have been steadily improving since early September.
“[The Pats] are a good team [and], coming into the season this year, a lot of people picked them to be the best team,” said Ice head coach James Patrick. “I know they got off to a tough start, but they look to be one of the best teams we’ve played [yet].
“I know it’s going to be really tough in their building.”
So far this year, while playing at the Brandt Centre, the Pats are 6-3, while the Ice haven’t been a great road team, winning only one of four away from Cranbrook in 2017-18.
“When you get on the road, you don’t get the match-ups, [but] it’ll be nice to have [Cale] Fleury and [Martin] Bodak in the lineup,” Patrick said. “That will make us a much better team.”
In the team’s only other extended trip of the year, their two best defenceman — Fleury and Bodak — were missing time with a suspension and injury, respectively.
“I think special teams are [also] going to be huge,” Patrick said of Wednesday’s match. “Neutral zone and defensive zone are areas where we can’t work on them enough… [the Pats] are a good team and they put on a shot-blocking clinic, so I think it shows where we need to be and where we can get better.
“We don’t block shots as well as they do. So, it’s just that we need to be better and hopefully, we will.”
According to 20-year-old Kootenay forward Alec Baer, who has 11 points in 15 games, the Ice are better than what the Pats saw from them in Cranbrook.
“Last time we played them, I don’t think we played our best hockey,” Baer said. “They got on us early and scored a couple of quick goals. If we play like we did [on Sunday against Red Deer], I think we can play with any team, including [Regina].”
While Baer is on a two-game hot streak with four points in that time and Colton Kroeker has 10 points in his last five games, the team will be without rookie-sensation Peyton Krebs on Wednesday.
With 13 points in 15 games at just 16 years old, Krebs is second in Ice scoring, but he will be away from the WHL for two weeks as he participates in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge which is being held in Dawson Creek, B.C. from November 5 to 12.
In his absence, the Ice will have to rely on their depth in their matchup with the Pats, and then as they head to Brandon for two games against the Wheat Kings.
So far this season, the Wheat Kings have a 9-5-0-1 record and are in the top Wild Card position in the Eastern Conference. The Ice, meanwhile, are in third in the Central Division with a 7-7-1-0 record.
According to Patrick, it will be important for his team to win the little battles to be successful on the road.
“Our wingers have to go through their defence [and we] can’t do fly-bys,” the coach said. “We’ve got to go through the body [and have] that five or 10-foot support. If one guy has the puck, you [have to have] four other guys that want the puck and want to be open […] puck support is going to be huge.”
Puck drop in the Queen City will be at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday night and the Ice will play in Brandon at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, before returning home.