The 2017-18 edition of the BC Major Midget Kootenay Ice play their first home games this season against the Thompson/Okanagan Blazers on Saturday and Sunday at the Cominco Arena. Jim Bailey photo.

Major Midget Kootenay Ice face Thompson Blazers in home opener

The Kootenay Ice lost their opening games of the BCMML season, but look to rebound this weekend.

Two losses at the BC Major Midget Hockey Showcase wasn’t the start the Kootenay Ice was looking for, but the team is determined to turn the tide this weekend when the Ice host the Thompson Blazers at the Cominco Arena.

Kootenay got off to a slow start on Saturday and fell to the Greater Vancouver Canadians 5-2, before dropping the Sunday tilt 10-5 at the Richmond Oval to kickoff their season 0-and-2.

“In the first game it took us two periods to get going,” said Kootenay coach Kris Boyce. “The other team took it to us for a full two periods, but in the third period we’re already down 4-0, so we ended up dominating them in the third period and we lost 5-2 with an empty netter.”

Two goals from Danny Pearson helped the Canadians to a 4-0 lead, but goals from Kootenay’s Daniel Booker and Keenan Crossman cut the lead to two, before G.V.’s Radek Hewson iced it into the empty cage with 21 seconds left.

“I thought the effort in the third was really good,” said Boyce. “The guys showed a lot of character after playing so bad in the first two periods.”

The Ice sat out the first week of the season with a bye, while the Canadians skated to two victories over the South Island Royals in Week-1. The extra games proved a bonus for the Canadians, and the bye, a detriment to the Ice.

“At the start of the year, it’s tough when you have a three week layover with no games or anything,” said Boyce. “You’re practising and you’re trying to work on systems, but at the same time, it’s not game play. So them having two games already to start the season you could tell the first game they were ready to go and we weren’t.”

In Sunday’s match the Ice came out strong in the early going as both teams traded scoring punches with Kootenay tying it 4-4 with 7:38 to play in the second period. However, the Canadians exploded for four goals in the final five minutes and 43 seconds of the middle frame to take an 8-4 lead, then added two more in the final frame, while the Ice replied just once.

Despite the loss, Crossman, a Trail native, was a bright spot in the Kootenay line up, scoring once and adding three assists to finish the weekend with six points.

“We gave him the ‘C’ this year, and he’s one of those character players who will work his butt off every time he’s on the ice,” said Boyce. “Every time he was on the power play it seemed like the puck was going off his stick and into the net.”

Vanderhoof native Booker scored his second of the season for the Ice, and Ryan Bennett, Simon Nemethy, and Quaid Anderson rounded out the Kootenay scoring.

For Crossman, the start was a tough one for the Ice after playing so well at a tournament in Kelowna last month, but the 17-year-old forward is confident the team can bounce back.

“I feel like we’re a lot better than we were at the start of last year,” said Crossman. “We have a great group of guys and hopefully we can go deeper in the playoffs this year.”

Crossman is also proud to be selected as the team leader, and as his early scoring prowess suggests, he expects to be more of a factor in this year’s offensive equation.

“It’s a great honour. I have some big shoes to fill from last year. Morgan Peace was a great captain, so I hope I can follow in his footsteps. I’ll definitely try to be more offensive this year, and try to help out the team in any way I can.”

The Kootenay Ice host the Thompson Blazers this weekend, a team they played at the Kelowna tournament, where a shorthanded Ice team fell to the Blazers 4-3 in their only loss in four games.

Thompson split their first two games against the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds to open the season, before losing twice to the Valley West Hawks last weekend. The Blazers are a team the Ice will need to beat, if they expect to make a move into the top five of the 11-team Major Midget league.

“We’re looking forward to that one,” said Boyce. “We played them in exhibition so we know what they’re about, and we’re going to go out and take it to them.”

The Ice host the Blazers at 4 p.m. Saturday and at 9:45 a.m. Sunday at the Cominco Arena.

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