Despite three losses in Kennewick, Luke Pierce likes what he’s seeing from his team.
The Kootenay Ice took part in the annual tournament hosted by the Tri-City Americans, posting three losses, however, two of those games ended in overtime and a shootout.
“I think overall, there was a lot of positive things,” said Pierce. “Especially with the first two games, the first one coming off a long travel and Prince George had a veteran lineup in and we had a very young lineup, I thought our guys, they didn’t get down, competed hard and found some ways to score goals, which is nice.
“…Overall, our speed was maybe better than I anticipated, our team play obviously still has some work to do.”
Once the team returned to Cranbrook, prized prospects F Peyton Krebs, the first overall selection in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft and second rounder G Jesse Makaj, were reassigned. Krebs will play for CFR Chemicals Bisons in the Alberta Midget Hockey League, while Makaj will head to the Northwest Giants of the B.C. Major Midget League.
The team roster now stands at three goaltenders, 10 defencemen and 18 forwards as they head into the Crowsnest Pass tournament against Lethbridge and Calgary, starting with a Thursday night matchup against the Hurricanes.
With that many bodies in the lineup, Pierce will be throwing some players who are used to playing centre on to the wing to get looks at how they adapt.
Also, he’s hoping that with 31 players left on the preseason roster, it forces some tough decisions on management.
“For the guys, you’re looking for people to separate themselves,” Pierce said. “There’s some real close competition and some guys need to elevate their games and the Crowsnest is an interesting place to evaluate it.
“It’s a smaller rink and a little more chaotic, so we’re going to have to see the battle-strength in guys and if they’re ready to play right now.
“We got a lot of young players on our roster. Are we ready to be that young or do we have to go with some older bodies?”
PG 5 (OT)
On Thursday, the Ice kicked off the tournament by forcing overtime against the Prince George Cougars, however, Jensen Harkins sealed up the 5-4 win for the Cats less than a minute into the extra frame.
Prince George built an early three-goal lead in the first period off of goals from Josh Anderson—a power play marker—while Aaron Boyd and Jared Bethune also chipped in offence.
Early in the second frame, the Ice responded with some help from the veterans as Matt Alfaro and Jared Legien put Kootenay on the board, while newcomer Fedor Rudakov also found the back of the net in the third period.
A goal from Harkins late in the game looked like it was enough to lift the Cougars to the win, however, Legien tallied with just over 30 seconds left in the affair to knot it up and send it to overtime.
Kootenay goaltending duties were evenly split at 30 minutes apiece between Payton Lee and Jakob Walter; Lee with 16 stops in 19 shots, while Walter made 22 saves on 24 pucks directed on goal.
Prince George also split their goaltending duties between Ty Edmonds and Tavin Grant, with Kootenay putting a collective 27 shots on goal.
The Ice were shut out on four opportunities with the power play and gave up one goal while killing three penalties.
SEA 4 (SO)
Nick Holowko was the shootout hero for the Seattle Thunderbirds on Friday, being the lone shooter to beat Makaj, while all three Kootenay players weren’t able to put a puck past Carl Stankowski.
Tyson Terretta gave the Tbirds an early lead in the first frame, however, the Ice responded with goals from Dylan Stewart in the middle frame, and Vince Loschiavo in the third.
Nolan Volcan knotted up the game near the halfway mark for Seattle, but Krebs notched a shorthanded effort to put the Ice in the lead.
A late goal with 20 seconds left in the game from Matthew Wedman evened up the score between the two teams before heading into overtime, and eventually, the shootout.
Declan Hobbs and Makaj split goaltending duties; Hobbs with 11 saves and Makaj with 12. Kootenay responded with 20 shots on goal against goaltenders Ryan Gilchrist and Stankowski.
“It was a game we probably should’ve won,” said Pierce. “We just made some bad mistakes late in the game.”
Three straight goals in the third period helped the Portland Winterhawks to a 6-2 win over the Ice on the final day of the tournament on Saturday.
The two teams were tied after the first period; goals came from Alex Overhardt for Portland, while Zak Zborosky replied for the Ice.
Overhardt added a second goal in the middle frame, while Ryan Hughes also padded the Winterhawks’ lead.
Krebs put a dent into the Portland lead with another shorthanded effort early in the third, however, Portland scored three straight goals from Evan Weinger, Lane Gilliss and Matthew Quigley to seal up the win.
Jakob Walter and Declan Hobbs evenly split goaltending duties; Walter with14 saves, while Hobbs made 15 stops in goal. The Ice forwarded 23 shots on the Portland goal, which was manned by Michael Bullion and Cole Kehler.
“At times we played some of our best hockey of the week, and at others, again, just some small mistakes that they capitalized on,” said Pierce.