Hockey is a fast game on the ice, but sometimes things move even quicker behind the scenes.
Only a day after returning to Cranbrook from a week-long road trip across BC, the Kootenay Ice traded veteran forward and alternate captain Vince Loschiavo to the Moose Jaw Warriors in exchange for 2001-born prospect Jackin Smallwood and a conditional third round draft pick.
Speaking to the Townsman over the phone on Monday night, Loschiavo was already in Lethbridge and making his way to Medicine Hat for the night. He had to be in Moose Jaw to make his Warriors debut on Tuesday night.
“I was a little bit surprised [to get traded] right now,” the 19-year-old winger said of his initial reaction to the news. “I have an open mind about it [though] and I’m really excited to go to Moose Jaw, a team that’s definitely going to go for a long playoff run.
“It’s tough to leave Cranbrook [since] I’ve been here for so long [with] all the guys, the staff, the city, and my billets. But, you know, I’m really looking forward to the opportunity ahead in Moose Jaw.”
Drafted by Kootenay in the second round of the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft, Loschiavo debuted as a 16-year-old in 2014-15 and put up nine points in 58 regular season games.
Originally from Winnipeg, he was a highly-touted prospect, but disappointed as a sophomore and only put up 10 points in 61 games during the Kootenay Ice’s first ever year missing the playoffs in 2015-16.
The following season, Loschiavo had a breakout year while playing alongside 20-year-olds Zak Zborosky and Matt Alfaro on the team’s first line. After his linemates were sent to Lethbridge at the trade deadline, he continued his success alongside new arrivals Brett Davis and Colton Kroeker.
Getting an ‘A’ on his jersey in January as well, he ended the season with 29 goals and 28 assists in 68 games. Although the Ice were once again at the bottom of the standings, they are years he looks back on fondly.
“Right from when I was 15 and getting drafted, the [organization] treated me like a pro and I have nothing but good things to say about them and the community,” Loschiavo said. “[It’s] a very nice community [and] I’ll always remember Cranbrook as part of the best years of my life.”
At the 2016-17 team awards, he was named the Ice’s ‘Most Improved Player’ and over the summer he was recognized for his potential with an invite to the NHL’s Dallas Stars summer development camp.
Loschiavo is the second key veteran player to have been traded in the past two months, as captain Cale Fleury was sent to the Regina Pats in mid-November. The moves are part of a retooling for the future process for Kootenay and also an arms race in Saskatchewan.
The Moose Jaw Warriors are currently the top team in the WHL and lead the East Division with a 25-5-1-1 record. The Pats, meanwhile, are hosting the Memorial Cup and have automatic entry into the CHL’s championship tournament.
On the same day that they acquired Loschiavo, Moose Jaw also traded veteran Noah Gregor to the Victoria Royals in exchange for Ryan Peckford.
“I talked to [Warrior’s general manager Alan Millar] and also coach [Tim Hunter] and they said that they’re building a team to make a run for it and I’m really excited to be a part of that,” Loschiavo said. “They’re definitely high powered offense and I think I can fit well with them. I’ll just bring my game to the table and contribute anyway I can to help the team win.”
According to an article posted on the Warriors website, Millar believes that Loschiavo could play a big role for the team as they pursue a league title.
“He brings a right shot to our forward group, which gives our coaches a lot of options in our top-six, top-nine and power play,” Millar said. “He’s an experienced guy that can score and gives us more depth with another veteran player in our group.”
Having missed the Kootenay Ice’s glory years, a long playoff journey is definitely something Loschiavo is looking forward to with his new team.
“I haven’t had a decent playoff experience, except for when I was 16 years old [so] moving to a team that’s really making a run is very exciting,” Loschiavo said. “I [also] grew up playing spring hockey with [Warriors forward] Brett Howden, so I know him and [Barrett] Sheen, as well.”
Sheen, another Ice player from last year’s squad was traded to the Warriors on the same day as Fleury went to Regina and has since put up five points in 13 games.
After 222 games in an Ice jersey, Loschiavo will play for the first time against Kootenay in Moose Jaw on February 10. He will then makes his first return visit to Cranbrook, as a member of the opposition, on February 28.
“That will be a little bit weird, but I think it’ll be fun and I’ll definitely be looking forward to it.”
Loschiavo is set to play his first game with the Warriors tonight, as they take on the Kelowna Warriors at home. The Ice, meanwhile, play their first home game since November on Saturday, as they host their annual ‘Teddy Bear Toss’ game against the Calgary Hitmen.