It’s been a tough run for the Major Midget Kootenay Ice, as the team dropped a pair of games to the Okanagan Rockets in Kelowna on the weekend for its fourth straight loss.
After a couple of good starts, the Ice were unable to keep pace as they fell to the Rockets 5-1 and 7-0 in BC Major Midget League action on the weekend.
“We just didn’t go up to Prince George (Oct. 26-27) and work hard enough,” said Ice head coach Kris Boyce. “Once they got up a few goals it seemed like everyone gave up on the game. We played a lot better in Kelowna, but both those teams are top teams in the league, and they’re top teams for a reason, but we worked a lot harder against Kelowna.”
The 10-4-0-0 Rockets are tied for first place with the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds and Vancouver North East Chiefs in the BCMML, all with 20 points. And on Saturday, the Rockets took advantage of their opportunities, scoring three times in the second period on their way to a 5-1 victory.
Colby Elmer netted the winning goal midway through the second period to give the Okanagan a 2-0 lead, following a first-period power play marker by Scott Gilowski. Elmer added his second of the night and 12th of the season on another power-play goal at 5:50 of the second, and 45 seconds later Brennan Nelson beat Ice goalie Charles Curiston to make it 4-0 Rockets.
Defenceman Corey McCann finished the scoring for Kelowna midway through the third, before Kootenay forward Wyatt Peterson tallied the Ice’s lone goal with 2:11 to play. Undisciplined penalties hurt the Ice particularly in the first match up, and while a strong Ice penalty kill has bailed the team out on occasion, it gets harder against top teams like the Rockets.
“When you’re in the penalty box half the game, it’s tough to come back and beat good teams,” said Boyce.
In Game 2, the Rockets took a 1-0 lead in a tightly contested first period, but three second period goals deflated Kootenay, leading to another three-goal barrage in the third. The Rockets Paul Hauk scored twice and singles went to Chase Dafoe, Teague Patton, William Reimer, Brennan Nelson, and Dylan Wightman in the 7-0 shutout win.
With just one goal in four games, generating offence is a concern for the Kootenay coach, but much of it starts in the defensive zone.
“You got to get shots to get offence,” said Boyce. “Against good teams, you have to do the little things right, and in our success the last couple years, we were really good in our defensive zone, and we would frustrate teams. Even though they would outshoot us, we would still beat them. This year we’re really struggling in picking up the loose guy in front, or by the back door, so they’re burning us every time.”
The road ahead doesn’t get any easier, but it will get shorter, as the Ice return home to host the 7-5-0-0 Thompson Blazers this weekend. The Blazers are coming off a pair of wins over the North Island Silvertips last weekend and have won six of their last seven games, including a 3-2 victory over Prince George on Oct. 20.
The Blazers are led by 15-year-old rookie phenom Logan Stankoven, who leads the league in scoring with 17 goals and 29 points.
“They have the leading scorer in the league on their team, we played them in exhibition so we know what to expect, and the kid, if you give him time and space on the ice he’s going to burn you. So we’re going to try and play hard in the defensive zone, cover him as much as we can, and if he doesn’t score, we win those hockey games.”
The Ice will have Dayton Nelson back in the line up, but have lost assistant captain Jarred Macasso to injury.
The Ice open the two-game series against the Blazers on Saturday at 4 p.m. at the Cominco Arena, with the puck drop for Game 2 at 11 a.m. on Sunday.