Roughly 2,684 fans came out to solute the Kootenay Ice on March 17 — its very last game at Western Financial Place — as they faced off against the Red Deer Rebels.
Emotions were high in a game that saw an action-packed first period that featured multiple penalties, one of which included Ice captain Peyton Krebs getting ejected for a hit from behind.
“Definitely disappointing,” said Krebs. “Getting that call wasn’t what I wanted for the last game playing in Cranbrook. I wanted to play for my teammates and the fans tonight. We had a tough year, it wasn’t what we wanted … but we wanted to give it our all last game here for these fans.”
Jaeger White scored the opening goal to give the Ice the lead in the first, but the Rebels stormed back with two goals on the five-minute major to Krebs.
Ex-Ice players Cam Hausinger and Brett Davis scored power play goals to give the Rebels the 2-1 lead after the first frame.
Hausinger added another goal 19 seconds into the second period, but the Ice had a three-goal second period.
Nolan Orzeck, Holden Kodak and Connor McClennon all tallied a goal in a little over a minute, while the Rebels added another to the scoreboard from Jordan Borysiuk to tie the game 4-4.
The young Ice team continued to step up, as Michael Milne scored the game-winning goal late in the third period, to send the Ice off on a high note with a 5-4 win.
“It was electric out there,” said McClennon. “[The fans] were super loud for the whole game, even when we got down there they kept us in the game. I think that was a big reason we kept scoring — bang, bang, bang — because they kept us going. It was awesome to get the win.”
Curtis Meger had the nod in net and got the win at Western Financial Place. He joined the Ice at the trade deadline when he was signed as an overage goaltender.
This was his last Western Hockey League (WHL) game of his career.
“To end off on a win like that in an electric barn it was a feeling like I never felt before — it was truly amazing,” said Meger, who is looking to play hockey in university next year.
White also closed out his WHL career in the win against the Rebels. He finished the year with 28 goals and 24 assists for 52 points on the season.
“It was an emotional game,” said White. “The crowd was pretty wild, it was awesome to see. To get the two points for them was a fitting ending.”
He adds the next couple of weeks he will evaluate what is next for him, looking at playing in university.
Even though Krebs was ejected from the game, it was emotional to watch from the stands. He was drafted by the Kootenay Ice first overall in 2016 and has played two full seasons with the team.
“Cranbrook has been amazing to me,” he said about his time in the Kootenays. “I couldn’t say enough good things. Back when I was 15 I got accepted into this city really well, nothing but good things. The fans have been amazing to me. I couldn’t say enough good things about the Spring family they have welcomed me in their home with open arms — it will be tough saying bye to them for sure.”
Krebs is expected to be a top 10 National Hockey League draft pick this year.
While it was an emotional afternoon for the team, it was also big for the fans. Especially those who have been cheering on the team for years.
Carolin Hockley, who was president of the Kootenay ICE Fan Club and has been a fan of the team since the 2000/01 season, said the day was bittersweet for her.
“We have a lot of memories to cherish, there are so many things that we have done over the 20 years and we were reminiscing on that the other day. It’s really sad to see this era leave here, but we can always look forward to better things or more things.”
As the Kootenay Ice chapter closes in Cranbrook, Krebs had one last thing to say to all the fans.
“Thank you for everything,” he said. “You guys have gone through a lot of ups and downs the past four years, but I just want to make sure everyone has their head held high and know they did their part. We appreciate everything they did. I know we are leaving, but they will always be in my mind and heart.”