The Kootenay Ice kicked off a four-game road trip on Tuesday night and fell flat against the Saskatoon Blades.
Losing 5-3 for a third straight game, the Ice gave up both a power play goal and shorthanded goal in an effort that head coach James Patrick called “extremely disappointing.”
Despite outshooting their opponents 34-24, the coach thought that the game was a step backward from their previous effort against Swift Current in which they played a solid team game.
“I thought we played [well] in the first period [and] it was a tight game, but then we got really individualistic,” Patrick said in a post-game video poster on the team’s social media. “There was a lot of one-on-one play that led to turnovers by our top-six forwards… our power play urgency, desperation, work ethic, retrievals was horrendous [as well].”
Their fourth straight loss, the outcome plummeted the team in further below a .500 point percentage and have them at a 23-27-3-0 record. While they are still in a playoff spot at third in the Central Division, the Ice are only six points ahead of the Red Deer Rebels, who are surging to catch them.
“It was a disappointing night when we’re an urgent team,” Patrick said. “[Saskatoon] was the more urgent team [which led to our loss].”
Despite the final score, the first period was solid hockey from both teams. Trading chances but staying smart defensively, the game went into the intermission scoreless.
The Blades opened the scoring on a power play early in the second frame as Max Gerlach’s blast from the point was tipped in front by Michael Farren past Matt Berlin.
Kootenay got on the board minutes later, with captain Colton Kroeker jamming in a loose puck in front of the crease that Nolan Meier made a series of saves moments prior.
Farren, however, put his right back in front two minutes later as he redirected another chance in front of Berlin, this time from veteran defenceman Evan Fiala.
Although the Ice had two chances to tie the game on subsequent power plays handed to them by Saskatoon, they didn’t generate significant pressure and then let in a goal on the man advantage.
Allowing Kirby Dach in on a one-on-one break, Kootenay allowed him to get a shot on net that had a rebound collected by teammate Brad Goethals and through a sprawling Berlin. Scored near the 14-minute mark, it was the final goal of the period.
In the third, the Ice continued to give up odd-man rushes and an odd bounce while setting up in the Saskatoon zone sent Gerlach off on a breakaway. Staying cool under pressure, the Ice-killer since his Medicine Hat Tigers days sniped the top of the net to give his team a two-goal lead.
From there, Kootenay nearly mounted a comeback but fell just short. After foiling Gilian Kohler with a tremendous left pad save on a two-on-one chance, Maier was then beaten twice by the Ice’s top line.
Less than a minute apart, the Cranbrook crew put in two goals in the last three minutes of the game starting with a slot-goal from Colton Veloso set up by Kroeker. Veloso then took up the role of passer as he fed Peyton Krebs for a similar goal.
Going for it at the tail-end of the night, Kootenay pulled their goalie and were quickly beaten due to a turnover by Chase Wouters.
Veloso, who ended the night with three-points (a goal and two assists) said that despite the close ending, there weren’t a lot of positives to take away from the night as a whole.
“We got outbattled, outworked and [it was disappointing because] we wanted to come out and start the road trip right,” he said. “We weren’t sharp on our breakouts or our break-ins. We were throwing pucks away and weren’t patient with it.
“It was uncharacteristic [because] we’ve been working on [that] in practice and doing a good job of it [recently].”
Veloso and the Ice don’t have to wait long to make amends for the performance as they play again on Wednesday night against the Prince Albert Raiders.
The fourth and final game in the teams’ season-series, Prince Albert has been one of the league’s hottest teams of late and haven’t lost in regulation in their past eight games.
Puck drop for the Ice-Raiders clash is at 6 p.m. MST.