The BC Major Midget Kootenay Ice are back in action this weekend when they take on the Vancouver Canadians at the Cominco Arena on Saturday and Sunday. Jim Bailey photo

The BC Major Midget Kootenay Ice are back in action this weekend when they take on the Vancouver Canadians at the Cominco Arena on Saturday and Sunday. Jim Bailey photo

BCMML: Kootenay Ice back in action, host Canadians this weekend

The Major Midget Kootenay Ice kicks off the new year with a pair of home tilts at the Cominco Arena.

With the BC Major Midget Hockey League’s Showcase in Kelowna wrapped up, the Major Midget Kootenay Ice get back to the real action at home this weekend.

All 11 BCMML teams competed in the Showcase, but the Kootenay team played two exhibition games against the Everett Jr. Silvertips, winning both games by scores of 3-2 and 6-2. Unfortunately, the points didn’t count in the standings, however, for Ice assistant coach Paul Mailey, it was a good way to return from the holidays.

“A couple exhibition games there, it was nice to have that coming off the break to try to get back into the swing of things. The guys played really well, and we didn’t focus on anything too specifically, just wanted to get back in the groove.”

The Showcase saw the top two teams go head-to-head, with the Valley West Hawks defeating Cariboo Cougars 4-3 in the first match, and then skating to a 2-2 tie in the second tilt to take a four-point lead atop the standings.

The last place South Island Royals also made a statement, taking three-of-four points from the Vancouver Canadians, which included scoring three goals in the third period to erase a 2-0 Vancouver lead, and defeat the sixth-place Canadians 3-2. The Royals and Canadians tied their second match 2-2.

The same Vancouver team travels to Trail this weekend for two matches versus the Ice at the Cominco Arena. The 12-12-1-1 Canadians lead the 8-14-0-2 Ice by eight points in the BCMML standings. Although Kootenay has two games in hand, every game comes with a renewed sense of urgency.

“It’s really tight in the standings right now,” said Mailey. “I know there’s probably six-to-eight points separating a lot of teams, so every weekend is big right now to the end of the season.”

With 16 games remaining for Kootenay, the team is currently tied with the North Island Silvertips for eighth place in the BCMML. The top eight teams earn a playoff berth so points against the Canadians this weekend is crucial.

“We have a lot of games against those teams that are right around us so to get those wins will be a big swing in the standings either way.”

Simon Nemethy, a Vanderhoof product, leads Kootenay in scoring with seven goals and 18 points, while Trail native Keenan Crossman is right behind him with seven goals and 16 points.

The Christmas break proved beneficial for an Ice team that was battling injuries, and the team is relatively healthy heading into the new year.

“We have a couple guys that are day-to-day right now, but most of the guys are back and had the break to rest up and heal, so we’re good to go.”

The Ice face off against the Canadians at 6:45 p.m. on Saturday at the Cominco Arena and at 9:45 a.m. Sunday morning.

Kootenay commits:

The Showcase had junior and college scouts flocking to Kelowna last weekend, so while Kootenay’s games may not have counted in the standings, there was a lot to play for with all the clipboards in the stands.

“Even though it was exhibition,” said Mailey. “It (the scouts) was another good reason to be there and give the guys that exposure.”

Following the weekend, the Castlegar Rebels announced they had committed Kootenay Ice forward Ryan Bennett for the 2018-19 KIJHL season.

The Cranbrook native is a solid two-way player, and, while just 15, has played five affiliate games for the Rebels and impressed GM Parker Hickey.

“We are extremely excited to have such a talented and young player joining us next season. Ryan’s maturity shows beyond his years through his work ethic, attitude, and responsibility on the ice. For a player to be this capable at both ends of the rink at his age is something very special and a foundation we believe we can build on to create a very strong player in the KIJHL.”

Bennett has three goals and seven points in 18 games with the Ice, and said: “I’m very excited to commit to the Castlegar Rebels for next season and I am looking forward to playing with such a great organization alongside a group of talented young men.”