It was supposed to be Matt Berlin’s night.
Letting in four goals on seven shots in the first period, the new Kootenay Ice goaltender quickly witnessed the night get taken over by the guy on the other end of the rink.
Acquired just prior to the WHL trade deadline, Berlin spent last week sidelined with a lower-body injury before finally getting his shot on Friday night against the Edmonton Oil Kings in Cranbrook.
At the bottom of the league standings, the Oil Kings appeared to be a comfortable start for the Ice’s newest netminder and the team looked primed to take their third straight win.
It wouldn’t be that simple.
“We got some humble pie served to us today, because I think we showed a bit of immaturity,” head coach James Patrick said following the game. “We [just] came off playing so well [against] Medicine Hat and played our team system… I don’t know if our focus wasn’t where it should be [on Friday] and that’s on me.”
Three and a half minutes into the game, a turnover from Martin Bodak in Kootenay’s end found the stick of Brendan Semchuk, who put the puck over Berlin’s blocker.
Less than a minute later, another giveaway — this time by Jonathan Smart — was collected by Kobe Mohr who made a pass to the high slot where Colton Kehler ripped another goal past Berlin.
The Oil Kings then converted on a power play chance near the midway point of the first period with a cross-ice pass from Trey Fix-Wolansky giving Kehler his second of the night.
Before the intermission, another giveaway in their own zone led to a rush from Fix-Wolansky that went off Semchuk’s skate and past Berlin to make it a 4-0 nightmare opening frame
“[We have] a turnover that ends up in our net, [another] turnover that ends up in our net, a power play goal by them [where] our defence were standing in the crease… then we turn it over again and it ends up in our net,” Patrick said, listing the goals and shaking his head. “Whether we were just really feeling good about ourselves and not shooting the puck, trying to be fancy…that’s what it looked like to me.”
The coach did not blame goaltending for their early struggles.
“[We had] a goalie playing his first game, and I don’t think he had many chances on a lot of those goals,” he said. “Maybe one, he did. But to play that way in front of him on his first game, I didn’t like that. We can’t start games [and] we can’t play games like that against any team in this league and expect to win.”
After outshooting their opponent 11-7 in the first period, Kootenay improved their play tremendously in the second and put up 21 shots to Edmonton’s seven.
Sebastian Streu picked up his sixth goal of the year on a power play early in the frame, as he redirected Alec Baer’s pass in front past Todd Scott.
From that point on, Scott stood on his head and didn’t let anything else get by him. While Streu thought his team improved after the opening frame, he didn’t really think the shots were indicative of the game at all.
“We got plus-40 shots on net, but if you look on the video, they are mostly in the chest,” he said. “We’ve got to start picking corners and [have] better execution… [high shot totals] may look good on the scoreboard, but if you can’t put them in the net, you’re not going to win a game.”
Near the end of the period, the Oil Kings added another insurance marker off a weird bounce following a faceoff that was credited to rookie Carter Souch, but the game was already effectively over. In the third, the Ice had a few chances, but ended the game with a 5-1 loss despite a 44-19 shot advantage.
“We started firing pucks at the net [in the second] and I know we started getting chances, [but] I’m not taking a moral victory out of it because, for sure, [the Oil Kings] started to play differently,” Patrick said. “Once a team gets a four goal lead, then they’re going to make sure they don’t get caught. They’re not going to give up odd man rushes unless it’s a big mistake.
“I do think the guys tried the last two period [and] I like that no one quit.”
According to Streu, the team might have just been looking too far ahead of themselves when they started the game.
“Maybe we underestimated them, but that’s something you can’t do in this league because this is pretty much like the NHL — any team can beat any team,” he said. “They are all tight games [and] you have to battle hard every game. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing against.
“The first 20 minutes, our minds were in a different place or something because we were definitely not there to play. That’s what hit us hard.”
Despite the loss, Patrick was impressed by some players, including Streu.
“I liked our third and fourth lines, better than I liked our first and second lines,” the coach explained. “Our first and second lines had some zone time, but we still had guys missing on the lines, guys not skating, not moving their feet, just standing out on the perimeter holding the puck, and it’s so easy to defend because they’ve got five guys in the middle.
“It’s [been] two games in a row [though, where our fourth] line has been really good, you know, [Cole] Muir, [Michael] King and Kaeden [Taphorn].”
With the loss, the Ice remain in third place in the Central Division with a 20-23-3-0 record, while the Oil Kings passed the Red Deer Rebels for 21st in the WHL.
The Ice’s next game is at 7:00 p.m on Tuesday night against the Lethbridge Hurricanes, once again at Western Financial Place.