Ice prepare for home opener

Kootenay shakes off two losses, shifts focus to home set against Regina, Lethbridge.

Kootenay Ice head coach Ryan McGill runs practice Monday afternoon at Western Financial Place.

As the legend goes, a little Dutch boy stood all night at a dam, plugging a leaky hole with his finger until adults from his village came the next morning to come up with a more permanent solution.

Kootenay Ice head coach Ryan McGill alluded to the story when describing the team’s recent play in an interview before Monday’s practice.

“You plug that one hole in the dam and all of the sudden another hole comes up, that’s kind of where we’re at right now,” McGill said.

However, he sees a lot of correctable mistakes out on the ice and no one is panicking with just two games and two losses to the books so far this season.

The Ice opened their campaign with a road trip into Alberta, losing 5-3 to the defending league champions in Edmonton last Thursday and dropping a 5-1 decision to the Calgary Hitmen on Saturday.

The Ice showed they were capable of playing among the league’s best against the Oil Kings as they clawed back into the game and weren’t discouraged by an early Edmonton lead.

Similarly in Calgary, Kootenay only trailed 2-1 after two periods of play, but a rough third period saw the Hitmen score three unanswered goals.

“We had a really good start, after the opening 20 minutes, even though we were down 1-0,” said McGill. “Basically the first goal was a missed assignment on the back check and they made a good play to the wide winger and they scored. But saying that, we actually played a very good period.

“The second period, same thing. Some of the mistakes were snowballed and the third period, we couldn’t recover.”

Monday’s practice also got a veteran boost, as Drew Czerwonka stepped out onto the ice for the first time after missing training camp with an upper-body injury sustained in the off-season.

It’s deja vu for the captain, who missed the start of last season while recovering from a shoulder injury after attending the Edmonton Oilers’ training camp.

Czerwonka, 20, will have to put in some hard work to get back into game shape, but will likely miss out on the home-opening action this weekend against the Regina Pats and the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

It won’t be any different when evaluating him against the other three 20-year-olds, but once Czerwonka gets some ice time in, the coaching staff can make some decisions, said McGill.

Observing from the stands and the press box has been frustrating, but Czerwonka said he’s had a good look at the overall team play with a birds-eye view of the action.

“From watching, our team works really hard,” Czerwonka said. “We got lots of young guys, but in both games, we were working really hard and that’s a huge upside for us.

“The outcomes weren’t that good, but there’s a few things we got to work on and I think we’ll be fine.”

And those few things are?

“Consistency,” he continued. “There’s too many times in the first two games where we took shifts off and we can’t do that against teams like Edmonton and Calgary. I think once we learn that we have to play a full 60 in this league to win, then we’ll start winning games.”

The Ice are carrying 25 players right now, but have had a few injuries with Jordyn Boyd and Petr Vesely, who had been out day-to-day with lower body injuries. Spencer Wand left the Hitmen game and joined the injury ranks, listed as day-to-day with an upper body injury.

Those injuries have prolonged the stay of a few of the younger guys, said McGill.

“That’s probably why we haven’t made a lot of decisions now,” he added.

Defensive prospects Kyle Krabben, Matt Thomas and Tanner Faith remain, while Collin Shirley, Kyle O’Connor and Luke Philp still have spots in the forward ranks.

McGill confirmed there will be more releases after the Ice’s home-opening set this weekend against the Pats and the Hurricanes.