The Kootenay Ice opened the 2014 WHL pre-season with a 5-4 loss at the hands of the Tri-City Americans in Kennewick, Wa. Thursday night.
Parker Bowles scored the winning marker for the Americans 5:18 into the second period. The tally gave Tri-City a two-goal lead and that’s all the hosts needed. Luke Philp cut the Americans advantage to one midway through the second frame, but a scoreless third period left the Ice on the bottom end of this one.
“I thought our guys responded really well in the third period,” said Kootenay Ice head coach Ryan McGill over the phone from Kennewick following the game. “It took us 40 minutes to kind of get our legs underneath us and get into game mode but the guys did well.”
The scorekeepers were kept busy in this game with nine goals between the two teams along with a combined 140 minutes in penalties.
The Ice were tagged with 67 minutes worth of infractions while the Americans racked up 73 of their own. During pre-season games, players are regulated by the “one-fight” rule, meaning one dust up results in a player’s immediate ejection from the game.
“There’s no reason for it — it’s exhibition,” McGill said. “There’s not really a rivalry with our team. I think it’s basically guys trying to prove themselves a little bit with their teammates.
“This is a normal occurrence in exhibition and I’m not sure that I know the answer why. I guess we’ll say boys will be boys.”
The second period served as the stage for the majority of the action with two scraps breaking out.
Kootenay’s Ryan Chynoweth dropped the gloves with Americans forward Austyn Playfair to open the festivities. Shortly thereafter, Ice forward Kyle O’Connor got into it with Tri-City defenceman Riley Hillis. All four were sent to the showers early.
The card closed 25 seconds into the final frame as Ice defenceman Tanner Faith took on Americans forward Maxwell James. Both players were handed five-minute fighting majors along with game misconducts as they joined Chynoweth, O’Connor, Playfair and Hillis in the dressing rooms.
Lucas Nickels opened the scoring for the Americans just over a minute into the first period before veteran Ice forwards Philp and Jon Martin returned fire with two goals less than four minutes apart.
It was a frantic first period that saw the teams exchange blows on the scoreboard, prior to exchanging fisticuffs later on.
Tri-City’s Brian Williams potted two goals in the opening frame and Chynoweth rounded out the scoring on the evening for the Ice.
Kootenay’s Wyatt Hoflin and Tri-City’s Eric Comrie went the distance between the pipes. Hoflin made 34 saves while his counterpart Comrie stopped 25 of the 29 pucks directed his way.
Though a number of veterans dressed for tonight’s game against the Americans, this was also the first major junior contest for a number of players, including but not limited to, Cale Fleury, Jared Legien and Vince Loschiavo.
“I’m not going to single anybody out,” McGill said. “I think some guys were a little overwhelmed in their first game and some guys got better as the game went on. Hopefully that will continue.”
It’s a quick turnaround for both teams as the Ice face the Portland Winterhawks Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. The Americans will get a few more hours rest as they host the Red Deer Rebels at 8 p.m.
“The quick turnaround isn’t going to affect us at all,” McGill said. “We’ll get an opportunity to put the other guys into the lineup that didn’t play tonight.
“The guys that played tonight will be extremely happy to get on the ice again [Friday] because they now are game ready. They now know what to expect. It’s way different playing intrasquad games and practices than it is in real games against opponents and those guys will be better [Friday].”
As press time, coach McGill had yet to decide on his starting netminder for Friday’s tilt with the Winterhawks. Jayden Sittler held down the backup role behind Hoflin this evening, while Keelan Williams watched the game from above.
The Ice scratched seven players Thursday night against the Americans. Forwards Matt Alfaro, Levi Cable and Austin Vetterl all had the night off as did defencemen Tyler King, Dylan Overdyk, Rinat Valiev and goaltender Williams.