Life on the road hasn’t gotten any easier for the Kootenay Ice.
With only two wins away from Western Financial Place heading into the weekend, the Ice were unable to break through in Alberta, dropping contests to the Red Deer Rebels and Edmonton Oil Kings.
Friday, the Rebels cruised to an 8-2 triumph, before the Oil Kings handed the Ice a 6-2 defeat Sunday afternoon.
Through 26 road games this season, the Ice are a miserable 2-23-1-0, having been outscored by a combined margin of 135-50, or 5.19-1.92 per game.
“We just weren’t ready to play and there’s no excuses for it at this point in the year,” said Luke Pierce, head coach of the Kootenay Ice, regarding Friday’s 8-2 loss to the Rebels. “We’ve been on the road a lot. We’re used to riding the bus. We need to understand that the first five minutes of any hockey game on the road, you have to be a little bit smarter and simpler.
“It starts to sound redundant now. How many more times can we talk about the same issues and not figure it out? It’s extremely frustrating.”
Jake DeBrusk spotted the hosts a lead only 34 seconds into Friday’s shellacking, ultimately setting the tone for the first period and the rest of the game. Before the night was 20 minutes old, Grayson Pawlenchuk and Adam Musil piled on to make it 3-0 Rebels before Zak Zborosky tallied a shorthanded marker.
The Rebels topped a three-goal first period by adding three more in the second, as Adam Helewka, Austin Pratt and Austin Strand joined in on the offense to make it 6-1 after 40 minutes of play.
Matt Alfaro registered a power-play tally in the early moments of the third, but Helewka and Colton Bobyk responded to round out the scoring and finish off the Rebels’ 8-2 route of the Ice.
Sunday afternoon in Edmonton, the Ice came out seemingly having learned at least one lesson from Friday’s crushing loss.
Over a span of 1:41, Zborosky and Noah Philp put up back-to-back power-play daggers, getting the Kootenay special teams rolling and providing a critical 2-0 lead midway through the first period.
Then the special teams tables turned and the Oil Kings rattled off six consecutive goals, including three in the second period, cruising to a 6-2 victory.
“We have a lead and we take two penalties that are in the offensive zone and are unnecessary, in my opinion,” Pierce said.
“We weren’t able to get out emotions out of that. Back to some old habits.”
Oil Kings left winger Colton Kehler started the special teams turnaround as he collected his 10th goal of the campaign on a power play 5:35 into the second period.
Only 1:14 later, Dario Meyer tallied just as another Ice penalty expired, so while the goal didn’t go up as a power-play effort, it was most definitely a product of the man advantage.
Finally, with only 14 seconds left on the clock, Brandon Baddock posted the Oil Kings’ second official power-play goal of the evening and the hosts carried a 3-2 lead into the second intermission.
Matters only went from bad to worse over the final 20 minutes of play as Kole Gable scored 2:55 in before Lane Bauer registered a third power-play goal. Finally, Brett Pollock completed the scoring with a shorthanded marker as only 1:34 remained on the regulation clock.
Ice goaltender Wyatt Hoflin was a busy man all weekend long.
The native of Spruce Grove, Alta., who turned 21 Sunday, faced 49 shots in Red Deer, turning aside 41. In Edmonton, the veteran puck-stopper saw 42 shots and made 36 saves.
“As the penalty trouble wore on [in Edmonton], that’s where they got all their shots and it was a pretty tight game up until that point,” Pierce said. “They start loading up on the shot count and it’s going to wear your goalie down.
“Wyatt is never going to quit, he’s never going to give up. We need to see more of that from more people.”
With the completion of the quick, two-game road trip, the Ice (8-38-4-0) return home to kick-start a season-long, five-game home stand when the same Oil Kings (21-23-6-1) visit Cranbrook on 2-for-1 Tuesday (7 p.m.) at Western Financial Place.