A really good home date last night in a 3-1 win over the Swift Current Broncos. Austin Vetterl had a 3 point night (goal, two assists) and Tim Bozon had a couple of goals while Jagger Dirk played better, chipping in two assists, gaining two points to keep the Ice in 8th place in the Eastern Conference with 20-19-2-1 record and 43 points. The Rebels dumped the Seattle T-Birds last night 5-1 to keep pace, a point back of the Ice.
1. Those Eastern Conference standings are still tight and Ice fans, along with five other teams, will be scoreboard watching for the better part of the next 10 weeks. Just 9 points separate 9th and on the outside looking in, from the 3rd seed. Last night PA beat Lethbridge while Regina beat Saskatoon. The trouble the Ice find themselves in is that the teams they're competing with - PA, Regina, Brandon have an easier schedule playing Saskatoon and Moose Jaw - teams out of the playoffs - down the stretch. Every night points will be at a premium, if that's not obvious already. They also have games in hand on the Ice, which doesn't help.
2. Newly acquired D Tyler King was a +1 on the night and played at least 25 minutes. He's a strong skater and although offense wasn't what he was acquired for, he had a couple quality chances. Was impressed with his all around game.
3. The Dirk-haters are out in full force, some justified, some not. He didn't play well in Medicine Hat Friday night but then again, I doubt anyone on the roster - save for Mackenzie Skapski; who saw and average of 45 shots over both his last starts - could be placed in the 'good game' department. The 20-year-old D-man played much better last night but like his team, needs to be more consistent. There's no question Dirk's going to have to pick up his game if this club is going to have any impact come playoffs, providing they get there.
4. The absence of Sam Reinhart is surely being felt but last night it looks like Tim Bozon has found his stride. He generated some really nice chances before firing the game-winner late in the game last night.
5. Lots of scuttlebutt at the game last night as the trade deadline approaches. The Ice are clearly trying to trade for another forward to add some scoring depth - be it to fill that other 20-spot or another forward - but the prices are astronomical. F Nathan Burns, 20, who was acquired by the Broncos from the Saskatoon Blades this week and played last night, cost forward Connor Sanvido, also 20, along with F Wyatt Sloboshan, 16, a Saskatoon product and former 2nd round pick playing OHA Midget in the Okanagan who is made be known that he is headed to the NCAA. The Blades are hopeful they'll get the hometown discount and convince the prospect to play there. Also going to the Blades is a 2nd round pick in the 2014 Draft and a conditional 3rd round pick in 2015. The Broncos get that back if Sloboshan signs with the Blades. So, the 20's exchanged are a wash except the Broncos get bigger but there's also two high picks or a high pick and a prospect depending how things play out. That's a high price for a player for three-four months or less.
6. Kootenay's in the mix for anther forward but whether or not they have anything in the cupboard to trade is the question. If they get another 20-year-old forward it'll have to be for picks as I doubt the club is willing to give up on a young roster player (Alfaro or Zborosky are the future). They traded a 1st round pick in 2015 for Bozon along with a 5th but they had two of them. They lost one in the Filabrandt trade with Tri-Cities but got another one in the Dylan McKinley deal with Kelowna. So they don't have a 5th in 2015 but gained back Tri-Cities 7th round pick in 2015 in the Hubic deal. If it's a younger impact forward - a 19-year-old likely - that Ice GM Jeff Chynoweth is shopping for, that'll be even more expensive, and put in play a young prospect along with high picks.
7. Following the last post the Portland Winterhawks announced that 20-year-old forward Shane McColgan had left the team. Plagued by a thumb injury this year McColgan got into only 6 games this year with only 2 assists to the scoresheet. The 20-yr-old was drafted by Kelowna in the first round in 2008 out of California and can put the puck in the net, putting up 270 points in 287 WHL games with the Rockets, Blades and Winterhawks. There are rumblings of him being a trouble-child so I'm not sure if he'd be a fit here or not. He was a -4 in his last game Jan 2 in a 9-3 loss to his former club and left the team.
8. Anyone else find it odd that the 4th line for the Ice last night contained F Levi Cable, 19, and F Kyle O'Connor, 17, along with AP call-up Austin Wellsby, 16? They played sparingly, perhaps three-four shifts a period if they were lucky. Could be a precursor of things to come (trade?) or just a message? Zborosky and Alfaro played well on the 3rd unit along with Jon Martin but unless there was an injury or sickness issue, Cable and O'Connor on the 4th unit says something.
9. Just a week ago the club drew a season-high 2945 to honor Scott Niedermayer and only 2227 last night. Over 700 difference. Average attendance is 2335 on the season, 20th in the 22-team WHL, ahead of Swift Current and PG. On the WHL relocation front, Nanaimo is still a priority for the WHL but they don't have a WHL-ready arena and by the sounds of it, don't want to build one, at least with public money.
10. Time for WJC Canada-Finland!