Anything you can do, I can do better.
Matt Alfaro might not have been thinking that heading into Saturday night’s annual Teddy Bear, Toque and Mitten Toss game, but he certainly was after it was all said and done.
With the Kootenay Ice hosting the Swift Current Broncos, Alfaro took care of business a mere 34 seconds into the first period, depositing the puck past a helpless Travis Child to bring teddy bear rain down onto the ice at Western Financial Place.
Alfaro’s lightning-quick tally bested last year’s teddy bear toss marker from Jaedon Descheneau, who beat Spokane’s Garret Hughson 41 seconds into the 2014-15 edition of the annual teddy bear toss in Cranbrook.
Unfortunately for Alfaro and the home team (6-25-2-0), the quick jump wasn’t enough as the Broncos (10-17-3-1) went on to a 5-2 victory in Western Hockey League action.
“I didn’t know it was that quick,” Alfaro said with a laugh. “Last year I didn’t really get a chance because [Descheneau] scored so quick. It was a cool experience.”
Broncos forward Tyler Adams drew things even 7:12 into the first period as the two teams went back and forth through 20 minutes of play.
If Alfaro’s 34-seconds-in teddy bear goal was in an effort to one-up Descheneau, Cale Fleury’s goal at the start of the second period surely must have been intended to one-up Alfaro.
Unleashing a heavy blast from the point, Fleury found a hole in Child only 15 seconds into the middle period. Most people were still milling about the concourse and there’s a good chance a number of fans missed both Kootenay Ice goals as a result.
“When you’re as fragile as we are right now, goals against do more harm than a goal for does positive,” said Luke Pierce, head coach of the Kootenay Ice, Saturday night.
A little less than six minutes later, an old ghost was back to haunt the Ice once again with the home team skating shorthanded after a delay of game penalty to goaltender Wyatt Hoflin.
Overage forward Jon Martin stormed in from the right circle and sent a laser of a shot over the shoulder of Hoflin and under the bar to tie the game 2-2 and that’s where it remained heading into the final 20 minutes of regulation.
“Hof comes in after the period and basically takes responsibility for the first two goals against,” Pierce said. “That’s leadership. You need your team to pick him up and work for him. He’s given us a lot of good chances every night.”
After 40 minutes that saw the Kootenay Ice, once again, in a position to collect at least a point, everything fell apart in the third period.
“We were in this game, another close game that we blew,” Alfaro said. “But we’ve got to try to stay positive. We’ve got three more games till the break here. We can’t waste those games. We’ve got to keep going.”
After Zak Zborosky was tagged for checking to the head, Tanner Lishchynsky joined him in the penalty box 33 seconds later after incurring a double-minor for high-sticking Broncos forward Jake DeBrusk.
The Ice managed to kill off the 5-on-3, but the Broncos converted on the remaining time to Lishchynsky as Kade Jensen hammered a point shot past Hoflin for a 3-2 Broncos lead. Around the midpoint of the third period, Scott Feser took advantage of a turnover deep in ice territory to extend the lead to 4-2 and Cavin Leth piled on to make it a 5-2 lead late.
When it was all finally over, the Ice had only managed a measly four shots in the final 20 minutes of play with the Broncos outshooting them 37-17 through regulation.
Child was never really tested as he made 15 stops for his third win of the campaign. Heflin was good on 32 of the 37 pucks he faced.
Not to be overlooked, again, was a shorthanded bench for Pierce.
The Kootenay bench boss was once again forced to ice a lineup one skater short with six bodies unavailable due to injury or illness.
While River Beattie rejoined the fray for the first time after missing 10 games with a head injury, lost for the foreseeable future were forwards Roman Dymacek and Vince Loschiavo.
“It is almost comical to the point of, you get one in, you lose two,” Pierce said. “I looked the other day, just for punishment’s sake — our roster, Oct. 3 or 4, there are three players from our top-nine forwards that are playing. That’s difficult. It affects a lot of things — fatigue, roles, but the one big one is chemistry.
“You have Roman and Vince playing in a top-six role and figuring things out, then they’re out. Practice [Friday], it’s all new line combinations. The game today, it’s all new line combinations. It’s tough. Beyond that, the individual work ethic from man to man needs to be way better.”
Saturday’s loss was the ninth consecutive defeat for the Kootenay Ice.
Next up, the Ice host the Red Deer Rebels Tuesday evening at Western Financial Place.
Daily Townsman Three Stars:1) F Scott Feser, Swift Current (1G, 1A) 2) F Jon Martin, Swift Current (1G) 3) F Matt Alfaro, Kootenay (1G)