With the WHL playoff race tightening, the Kootenay Ice host the Lethbridge Hurricanes Tuesday night, in hopes of keeping thoughts focused on what’s in their control.
“When there’s six games left or 10 games left or whatever it is, you’re always scoreboard watching trying to get some help from teams,” said Kootenay Ice alternate captain Austin Vetterl prior to practice at Western Financial Place Monday afternoon. “I think the most important part is we go out and win our games and we should be fine. Then we won’t have to look at scoreboards. It’s in our own hands right now.”
Heading into Tuesday action, the Ice sit one point up with one game in hand on the Edmonton Oil Kings for the first wild-card seed in the WHL’s Eastern Conference.
The Oil Kings clawed within one point of their Central Division rival after the Ice managed to collect only one of a possible four points this past weekend, scoring one lonely goal over two games — a 2-1 shootout loss to the Red Deer Rebels Friday and a 1-0 shutout at the hands of the Medicine Hat Tigers Saturday.
“We need to just do the simple things — get pucks to the net, get more traffic in front of the net,” Vetterl said. “Get a greasy one. I think that’s the biggest problem right now — once you don’t score for a couple games, you start squeezing your stick, trying to make pretty plays.”
Despite having surrended the second-most goals (270) in the WHL’s Eastern Conference, the Hurricanes boast a strong goaltending tandem featuring 16-year-old Stuart Skinner and former Kootenay Ice keeper Jayden Sittler.
“Both [are] good goalies, capable goalies,” Vetterl said. “We’ve got to get on them early.”
In his WHL rookie season, Skinner is 13-17-2-3 wwith a 3.63 goals-against average (GAA) and 0.911 save percentage (SP) while the 19-year-old Sittler is 8-14-0-0 with a 3.53 GAA and 0.906 SP.
Sittler was dealt from the Ice to the Victoria Royals earlier this season, before then being shipped to Lethbridge.
Spirits were high in the basement of Western Financial Place on Monday, as buzzing around Vetterl was alternate captain Jaedon Descheneau.
With a big grin plastered across his face, the Edmonton native wrapped Vetterl in a bear hug before jumping in with his own thoughts.
“Play hard. Play smart, physical, fast,” Descheneau rattled off in response to what his team needs to do in order to get on a roll heading towards the post-season.
Including Tuesday’s scheduled tilt with the Hurricanes, the Ice have six games remaining in regular-season play.
“Stick to the game plan. Show up to the rink ready to play any game, no matter what,” Vetterl added. “Like Descheneau said, play hard, fast and everyone needs to chip in offensively, defensively. Whatever your role is, you’ve got to do it.”
Following Tuesday’s date with the Hurricanes, the Ice host the Medicine Hat Tigers at Western Financial Place Friday night before taking their show to Red Deer for a Saturday night special against the Rebels.