It was a festive night for the Kootenay Ice (6-19-7-1), but it was the Kelowna Rockets (19-11-1-0) who got to celebrate at the end of the night.
In their 18th annual A&W Teddy Bear, Toque and Mitten Toss night, the Ice were unable to come out victorious and ended a four-game stretch of one-goal games with a 7-3 beat down.
“Nothing went right [tonight], which is unfortunate because we’ve been playing some really good hockey recently,” said Ice head coach Luke Pierce, after the game. “We didn’t get any breaks early on and it didn’t seem like we were prepared to play.”
Kootenay was immediately behind the eight ball against a high-octane Rockets team. Kelowna scored three times in the opening frame, putting up 13 shots, while the Ice only had six shots to counter and were held scoreless.
On Teddy Bear night, fans are encouraged to bring wrapped teddies, toques and mittens and throw them on the ice when Kootenay scores their first goal.
After seeing their home team score in the opening minute of the last two years’ events, anxious Kootenay fans were forced to hold on to their plush toys through the first intermission.
Luckily for them, Troy Murray let them toss to their heart’s delight with a power play goal just under two minutes into the second period.
“It’s definitely a goal [that] everyone wants to score, and thankfully I got it,” Murray said with a smile following the game. “I think I even got hit in the head with a teddy bear, so it was a good time.”
Unfortunately, after a quick clean up, the Rockets countered almost immediately as Leif Mattson put in the eventual game-winner from Jake Kryski and Connor Bruggen-Cate.
Vince Loschiavo would counter quickly, pushing his goal-scoring streak to five games, with linemates Matt Alfaro and Zak Zborosky picking up assists.
In the third period, Jake Kryski put in two goals before Max Patterson put away his third goal of the year, to give the Ice some consolation.
Kryski and teammate Calvin Thurkauf both had four-point nights for the Rockets (two goals and two assists), while Zak Zborosky had a pair of assists to continue his strong season for the Ice.
For Pierce, the game wasn’t a reflection on any gaping holes in the team’s game or a sign of major problems. It was just an off-night for the team.
“It just wasn’t our night,” he said. “We haven’t been bad for quite some time… we couldn’t get a bounce, we couldn’t execute any passes. [Kelowna] is a big physical team [and] we talked about that, but it caught us off guard a bit [since] we haven’t played a team like that in awhile.”
“We just need to put it behind us and move on.”
The loss against Kelowna comes off the heels of a tough loss in Spokane on Friday night, where the Chiefs scored with just over a minute left in the game to beat the Ice in what was otherwise, a great night for the team.
Pierce admitted that the way that one ended, may have played into the loss the next day.
“The way we lost [in Spokane] may have affected us a little bit,” he said. “We played well enough to win [that one] in my opinion… we didn’t get any breaks early on tonight and it festered and turned into this result.”
Although there weren’t many positives coming out of the night, the Ice managed to score twice on five power play chances while shutting down the Rockets on all five of their man-advantages.
Pierce felt his team did an okay job of keeping their cool, despite the frustration of the night.
“I didn’t think we were overly undisciplined in general, it was just bad timing on the penalties that we took,” he said. “I’m not going to over-analyze this game, it was just one of those days for us.”
The Ice’s next game is on Wednesday as they take on the Swift Current Broncos at home.