Some say that a two-goal lead is the worst lead in hockey, but the Kootenay Ice know that it’s a lot better than a 3-0 deficit.
Kootenay (2-4-1-0) let in three unanswered goals in the first period on Thursday night and ended up losing 5-4 to the Red Deer Rebels (5-3-0-0) at home.
According to head coach James Patrick, while the team played well for 40 minutes, the opening 20 cost them a victory.
“When we have guys who want to play one-on-one and want to play fancy and want to play a dipsy doodle game, we don’t have a chance,” Patrick said. “We don’t have a hope to win in this league [playing like that] and that’s how we started the game.”
Playing in the first night of a three-game homestand, Kootenay hoped to get comfortable at Western Financial Place, but were quickly outpaced by their opponents.
Red Deer put in their first goal just three and a half minutes in, when Reese Johnson found himself alone in the slot and beat Ice goalie, Kurtis Chapman.
On a power play, seven minutes later, Mason McCarty scored another slot goal and followed it up with a perfect top-shelf wrister off the rush for his second of the night.
“We just got caught sleeping at the start and they capitalized,” said Ice forward, Alec Baer. “If you erase that first [period], and replace it with [our later] play, I think we could have definitely [won] the game.”
Heading into the first intermission, the Ice knew they had to be better and came out with a lot more focused play in the second period.
Vince Loschiavo, only a single game separated from being a healthy scratch, got the rally started with a long wrister, assisted by Loeden Schaufler and Brett Davis.
Colton Veloso then scored just a minute later as he buried a shot from the corner after handling a pretty pass by Martin Bodak.
From there, the game settled down and developed into a tight affair with the two teams trading chances and both Chapman and Rebels’ goalie, Lasse Petersen shutting the door.
Early in the third frame, Lane Zablocki appeared to have scored on a power play, but the Rebels goal was quickly disallowed due to a high stick.
A few minutes later, however, Czech-import Kristian Reichel scored for real with a wrister from the blue line on another power play and put his team up 4-2.
While Alex Baer would get the game back to being a one-goal affair at the midway point, when he beat Petersen on an unassisted marker, McCarty regained the insurmountable lead with his hattrick tally with minutes to go.
Then, with eight seconds left, Peyton Krebs found Colton Kroeker to make the final score a little nicer, but it wasn’t enough to earn any points in the standings.
With the loss, the Ice are on a four-game losing streak and remain near the bottom of the Eastern Conference. The Rebels, meanwhile, remain on top of the Central Division.
“I’m not taking a moral victory out of it, because you can’t show up in this league and spot a team a three-goal lead and wait 15 minutes before you’re ready to play,” Patrick said. “It’s on me if the team is not ready to play, and our key guys weren’t ready to play.”
In addition to a poor start, the Ice also suffered a tough night on the power play and penalty kill. With the man advantage, the team went zero for three and were scored on twice in three chances for Red Deer.
“We lost the [special teams] battle big time,” Patrick said. “Their shot blocking was the difference. They blocked shots and we didn’t. The first special team’s goal was just a flat out breakdown by two players to leave that guy open in front.”
There were, however, positives to be drawn from the game which largely featured competent play by the Ice.
“I thought the last 40 minutes, we played our system,” the coach said. “We were in a real competitive game with a really good team, who do a lot of things right.”
Two of the bright spots were new additions to the lineup for the season, including the recently traded, Jeff de Wit, from the Regina Pats, and the newly-healthy Kaeden Taphorn.
“Kaeden, [just like his brother] Keenan, is just [a] worker,” Patrick said. “They do a lot of little things right and they skate and they compete. It was good [to have him] in the line-up and get him going and get some of the rust off.
“Jeff showed that he can hang on to pucks [and] he’s a big body, he skates pretty good [and] he can make plays.. I really liked what he brought.”
While de Wit was a little overwhelmed, having just been acquired by the Ice on Tuesday, he was happy to get into the swing of things right away.
“[It was] definitely a couple of hectic few days, but I’m excited for the opportunity ahead,” de Wit said. “It’s tough playing with new guys right off the hop, especially just driving for 10 hours plus. I got my legs going [though], and I’m excited to play Saturday.”
Overall, Patrick pinned the loss squarely on his own shoulders and also that of the team’s veterans and wants to see elements of their last 40 minutes continue into their next game.
“I felt we were stronger on the puck the last half of the game [and] we got more engaged in the battles, which we need to do from the drop of the puck.”
As for goaltending, Chapman — who made 25 saves on 30 shots — was not a target for blame.
“I thought we really hung him out to dry the first period,” Patrick said. “He probably wants that fifth goal back, but other than that, to spot him a 3-0 lead and leave guys wide open in front like we did, that wasn’t on him.”
The Ice have a quick turnaround as they head into their next action on Saturday night, once again at home, against the Everett Silvertips.
The Silvertips have a 3-6-0-0 record through nine games and are currently on a three-game losing skid. They have been struggling to pick up wins with the absence of all-star goalie Carter Hart, who is battling illness, and will have a match against the Lethbridge Hurricanes the night before arriving in Cranbrook.
According to defenceman Ryan Pouliot, the key to a better result is as simple as playing a full 60 minutes, the way they ended on Thursday.
“I think we just have to have a good practice and get some rest and then I think the biggest thing is our start for Saturday’s game,” Pouliot said. “If we start well and play all three periods, I think we can get a win.”
Puck drop on Saturday will be at 7 p.m at Western Financial Place.