Ice soldier on without Bozon

Team preparing for final games of the regular season despite missing star forward to critical illness.

File photo of Kootenay Ice forward Tim Bozon in action against the Moose Jaw Warriors.

File photo of Kootenay Ice forward Tim Bozon in action against the Moose Jaw Warriors.

Some things are just more important than hockey.

Though the Kootenay Ice are doing their best to close out the regular season, it’s safe to say there is a lot on the minds of the players.

The club, along with the WHL, made it official on Wednesday, revealing that sniper Tim Bozon is in critical condition with Neisseria Meningitis at Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon.

The seriousness of the revelation rocked the hockey world.

Kootenay played the Prince Albert Raiders to a 4-2 loss the day Bozon was admitted to hospital on Saturday, and lost 4-0 on home ice to the Rebels on Tuesday.

“Obviously, it’s tough when you see that happening to a teammate,” said Luke Philp, who centres the second line between Bozon and Austin Vetterl. “We gotta fight for him out on the ice, we gotta play for him and we know he’s fighting, so we’re going to keep battling as hard as we can for him.”

Vetterl agreed, noting that the whole team is concerned for their teammate.

“Obviously with Tim, it’s tough,” Vetterl said. “Everyone feels for him and every time we go out, we play for Timmy right now.

“Obviously, that’s our key focus. He’s a battler, we’re going to battle for him out there and we’re trying to get wins for that guy right now.”

While the Ice are dealing with the emotional strain of Bozon’s condition, they still have to prepare for and play out the remainder of the season.

The Ice will host the visiting Medicine Hat Tigers on Friday and the Regina Pats on Saturday.

Both teams are coming in hot, as the Tigers and Pats have only lost three of their last 10 games.

It’s especially tough with the fourth-place Tigers—Medicine Hat isn’t doing Kootenay any favours by continuing to win, which is creating a larger point-gap for the fifth-place Ice.

The Tigers also hold the edge in the season series with three wins over the Ice, which in turn, have only two wins against the Tabby Cats.

After allowing three goals in the first period, Vetterl said the team wasn’t happy with how they opened the game.

“The way we started, obviously if we start like that again, we’re going to lose games,” sad Vetterl. “In the second and third, we played them a little harder, but in the end, we didn’t get enough traffic to the goalie.”

Shutting down the top line of Curtis Valk, Trevor Cox and Cole Sanford will be key, added Vetterl.

If playoffs began tomorrow, the Ice and the Tigers would be first round opponents.

“Every game we’ve played them, it’s been hard to win against them in their rink, and obviously it’s been a battle every time we’ve played them at home,” said Philp.

“It’s going to be a good test tomorrow.”

Friday’s game is also Anti-Bullying Night, were schools will out in force to cheer on the team and show off their school spirit. Fans are encouraged to to take a stand with the Kootenay Ice and wear pink to support anti-bullying causes.

The Ice will be back at it on Saturday with a meeting against the Pats at Western Financial Place.