Slumping Ice slip out of first place
by Jeff Bromley
Adversity, thy name is Kootenay and it’s coming from all angles.
The Kootenay Ice dropped their second straight and third in their last four outings Sunday night in a 6-4 loss to the Red Deer Rebels at the Cranbrook Rec Plex. The loss dropped the Ice to a 30-15-1-2 record on the season as their Central Division rivals blew past them for first place and now sit six points up on the Ice in the race for playoff position in the WHL’s Eastern Conference.
“If you take eight penalties in a game, you’re going to shoot yourself in the foot,” said newly acquired Ice forward Cody Eakin. “That’s exactly what we did and the score showed it.”
Up 2-1 over the Rebels into the second period Sunday night the Ice got into penalty trouble late in the second and into the third period and took seven of the eight minors handed out by referees Trevor Hanson and Jeff Ingram through the 18 minutes, including two, too-many-men infractions. Before they knew what happened the Rebels struck for five goals including an empty-netter as Red Deer’s two imports – John Persson with a hat-trick and Andrej Kurdrna with a five point night – did most of the damage in the 6-4 win. “The biggest two penalties I was disappointed with was the two, too-many-men penalites,” said Ice head coach Kris Knoblauch. “It cost us one goal at least and it just shows we weren’t prepared. That was the difference in the game.”
On the ice the loss was Kootenay’s third in four outings, starting with the 11-2 embarrassment in Spokane January 15 in the WHL’s first-ever outdoor game. Kootenay edged the Edmonton Oil Kings at the end of a long road trip Tuesday night at the Rec Plex 4-3 but dropped a 5-2 loss to the Chiefs in Spokane Friday in Cody Eakin’s debut. Sunday’s loss now has the club in a dogfight for playoff seeding in the Eastern conference with the hard-charging Medicine Hat Tigers and Moose Jaw Warriors.
Off the ice the club’s infirmary is overflowing. 20-year-old forward Steele Boomer is out at least four weeks with a high-ankle sprain while 18-year-old Calgary Flames Draft pick D Joey Leach underwent surgery in Calgary over the weekend to remove a broken bone in his ankle. 20-year-old forward Matt Fraser took a knee to the head Tuesday against Edmonton and is listed as day-to-day, as is 17-year-old D Luke Paulsen who has missed a week with a concussion. The short line-up to some key cogs in the line-up has forced the newcomer to carry a load right off the hop, having returned from a hand injury suffered at the World Junior Championships Friday against the Chiefs.
“It’s a lot of minutes after being off the ice for awhile but it’s not huge and after the first couple of shifts you get through it,” said Eakin who has two goals and an assist in the two games he’s played. “Hopefully we can get through these injuries sooner rather than later, and get them over with down the road towards the playoffs.”
Knoblauch admitted the club’s not responding as well as he’d hoped to the adversity. “We’re missing some key guys but we still have a good team. We’re missing four of our top ten players and it’s hard but every team goes through it at some point in the season and we’re going through now. We’ve played so well five-on-five these last two games, probably two of the hottest teams in the league right now and we had a chance to win both of them. Some guys are playing more minutes than they’re used to."
Quick Hits – The Ice will host the Brandon Wheat Kings Wednesday before a home-and-home with the Lethbridge Hurricanes over the weekend… The club has called up 16-year-old goaltender MacKenzie Skapski to skate with the club this week, while forward Levi Cable, 16, who sits 9th in Saskatchewan Midget League scoring with 45 points, will also see action this week due to injuries. Knoblauch said that Skapski, who currently plays with the Ridge Meadow Flames of the Junior B PIJHL, may or may not play this week.