The wheels on the bus go ‘round and ‘round—all the way to Kennewick in Washington state as the Kootenay Ice head to the home of the Tri-City Americans for an exhibition tournament this weekend.
They’ll leave on Thursday morning, with enough time to get to the rink and suit up for an evening game against their hosts. Kootenay also faces off against Spokane and Everett on Friday and Saturday night.
For the nine remaining prospects—a goaltender, three defencemen, and five forwards—the tournament will be critical to determining their immediate future with the Ice.
However, with only two days of team practices, there is a huge learning curve with adopting new systems and fitting into roles, said Ice head coach Ryan McGill.
“We got a lot of work to cover in two short days so we’re at least a little bit organized coming into the games for these guys, give them a little bit of structure,” McGill said. “There’s a lot to absorb and we’re asking a lot of these guys. They just started their first week of school, they got a lot on their minds and obviously, it’s a week where they have a lot thrown at them.
“We want them to go out this weekend and showcase themselves versus other players in the league rather than their peer group here that they’ve been playing against all week, so it’s going to be a big test for them.”
With Mackenzie Skapski attending training camp with the New York Rangers, prospect Jayden Sittler stayed after camp, and will share netminding duties with Wyatt Hoflin.
McGill’s plan, as of Wednesday evening, is to start Hoflin on Thursday and Saturday, with Sittler getting his shot on Friday night.
However, as with any player and position on the team, ice time has to be earned, added McGill.
Zachary Zborosky, one of the five prospect forwards, had a strong camp and is looking to take that into the exhibition season.
“I was pretty happy with myself, can’t say I’m satisfied, but I thought I did good out there,” said the Regina native, on his training camp experience.
Going up against other WHL teams is going to be a step up from intrasquad scrimmages, he said.
“I expect the game to be much faster and bigger guys out there and it’s going to be tougher than Midget,” Zborosky said.
He spent his past season playing in the Saskatchewan Midget Hockey League (SMHL) with the Regina Pat Canadians, scoring 22 goals and tallying 30 assists in 42 games.
After the Tri-City tournament, the Ice have two more remaining pre-season games in the Crowsnest Pass against Calgary and Lethbridge.