The Major Midget Kootenay Ice opened a new era of hockey at the Trail Memorial Centre on Saturday.
The Ice faced off against the Cariboo Cougars in its historic first game as part of J. L. Crowe Secondary School’s High Performance Hockey Academy.
The first challenge just might have been its toughest, as the Ice faced a Cariboo team that finished second overall in the BC Hockey Major Midget League last season and is gearing up to host the 2017 Telus Cup – Canada’s 44th National Midget Championship – in April.
“We knew they were going to be good,” said Kootenay Ice coach Kris Boyce. “They’re hosting the national championship this year, they are going to build a team that’s going to be really good. For us, we need to take the positives out of the weekend. We know we have lots of things to work at.”
The Cougars looked like early contenders after skating to an 8-2 victory on Saturday and a 6-0 shutout win over the Ice on Sunday at the Cominco Arena.
Marcus Allen stopped 21 shots to earn the shut out, as the Cougars scored three times in the second period to break open a 1-0 game. The Cats recorded goals from six different scorers including Jeremy Gervais, Myles Mattila, former Ice player Hunter Floris, Joel Patsey, Mason Richey and Brandon Dent.
The Ice showed flashes of promise on the power play but had troubles penetrating a Cougars defence led by six-foot-two, 210 pound Patsey who tallied four points on the weekend. The Cats fired 43 shots at the Ice net, with Kootenay goalie Jaysen MacLean suffering the loss.
In Saturday’s game, the Ice were down just 3-0 heading into the third but five goals including three straight shorthanded markers by Riley Krane, Richey, and Dent sealed the deal for the Caribou. Richey scored twice, while Darian Long, Trey Thomas, Patsey, and Brandon Rowley rounded out the scoring. Owen Titus and Ethan Jang replied for the Ice.
“Our special teams wins games for us but if we’re not good on the powerplay then we need to work on those things,” said Boyce. “Overall we worked pretty good in our D-zone, but we need to get more shots on net, and establish a good powerplay. We need to get pucks to the middle and create scoring chances with quick puck movement. If the guys move the puck quicker we’ll get opportunities.”
The games were a tough first test for the High Performance Hockey Academy team, but the early season combined with four new coaches, who are also going through a learning process, means the Ice is still identifying match ups and special team assignments, so success will take time.
“Those are the things we have to build on. As coaches, we have to see who the better players are on the other team and put our appropriate guys out there when we need them … The guys worked hard and it’s definitely a building process. We have to build the guys’ confidence up and when we start winning games, I think we’ll win them in bunches.”
The Ice hit the road this weekend to take on the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds in Richmond on Saturday and Sunday. The T-birds split their games with the Okangan Rockets last weekend, losing 3-2 before bouncing back with a 5-3 victory.