The Kootenay Ice (9-40-4-0) will look to build upon a shutout victory over the Lethbridge Hurricanes when they welcome the Tri-City Americans (24-25-2-1) to Cranbrook Wednesday evening.
“Staying in the moment of understanding how hard of work it was,” said Luke Pierce, head coach of the Kootenay Ice, regarding what it’s going to take for his team to carry Saturday’s efforts forward. “All the little things you had to do — the shot blocks, the smart changes — and then not getting too far ahead of ourselves. We just beat a very good hockey team, but that doesn’t make us all of a sudden the favourites to win every game we play in.
“We’re going to have a real tough opponent in Tri-City.”
The Americans skate into Wednesday’s game having stacked up an impressive 7-2-0-1 mark over their past 10 games. With this recent run, Tri-City has scraped back into the Western Conference playoff picture, sitting three points back of the Portland Winterhawks (26-25-2-0) for the second and final wild-card slot.
Meanwhile, for the Kootenay Ice, a 2-0 shutout of the Central Division-leading Lethbridge Hurricanes snapped a 10-game winless stretch.
“The way we’ve been losing hockey games lately, to give up none against the best team [in the division], it’s huge for us,” said Ice goaltender Wyatt Hoflin. “Now we’ve just got to realize what we did well, look at the things we need to do better and move on from there.”
Wednesday’s outing marks the first of a four-game Central Division swing for the Americans, who carry on to visit Lethbridge (Friday), Red Deer (Saturday) and Edmonton (Monday), before returning home.
For the Ice, Wednesday stands as the second-last contest in a season-long, five-game homestand, which concludes Friday when the Spokane Chiefs (26-21-3-2) visit Western Financial Place.
“This is a huge confidence-builder for us,” said Ice winger River Beattie. “We just need to keep moving forward and keep building off how we played [Saturday against Lethbridge] and carry it on into Wednesday [against Tri-City] and the rest of the season.
“We’ll keep going and keep getting better.”
At 9-40-4-0 with 19 games remaining on the schedule, the Ice will finish the 2015-16 WHL regular season with a record below .500 for the first time since 1998-99.
During the 1998-99 season, the club’s first in Cranbrook following a move from Edmonton, the Ice went 30-35-7-0 under then head coach Ryan McGill.
The worst season in franchise all-time history, including its first two seasons in the league as the Edmonton Ice, came during the 1996-97 campaign — the expansion year for the club.
Under then head coach Dave Siciliano, the Edmonton Ice registered a record of 14-56-2-0, scoring 231 goals and surrendering 395.
The 2015-16 edition of the Ice is on pace to score 150 goals while allowing 312 through 72 games. With that in mind, the team is on pace to win 12 games, though Saturday’s efforts could be a sign of brighter times ahead.
Puck drop between the Kootenay Ice and Tri-City Americans is slated for 7 p.m. at Western Financial Place.
Notes: A couple local products return home, as Americans 17-year-old centre Jordan Roy (25GP, 1-1-2) is a native of Kimberley and former Kimberley Dynamiter, while 19-year-old defenceman Jeff Rayman (34GP, 3-0-3) is a native of Fernie and former Fernie Ghostrider…