Maybe it was a ‘Pink the Rink’ hangover.
After a raucous party on Saturday night at Western Financial Place, in which the Kootenay Ice beat the Brandon Wheat Kings in front of a season-high 3,474 fans, the world came crashing back down on Wednesday.
With 2,112 in the building for weekday action, the Ice lost 5-2 to the Edmonton Oil Kings in what was a forgettable effort.
“I didn’t think we skated too well, as a group, [and] we didn’t have much jump,” said Ice head coach James Patrick after the game. “We had too many passengers and they just hunkered down, blocked every shot and finished checks.”
After a tepid start from both sides early in the first period, the Oil Kings broke through for the game’s first goal during the last minute of the frame.
Passing it in front of the Kootenay net, leading Edmonton scorer Trey Fix-Wolansky capped off a pretty play by burying the puck past Duncan McGovern.
The Ice then came out flat to start the second, and just 30 seconds in Tomas Soustal walked in and ripped a perfect shot top corner. The unassisted marker from the team’s number two scorer gave his team a 2-0 lead, with both goals coming roughly a minute apart plus intermission time.
After spotting the Oil Kings a 4-0 lead early in their last meeting during the same homestand two weeks prior, Patrick was disappointed with another slow start from his group.
“If anyone thought it was going to be an easy game, they were badly mistaken,” he said. “Since [practice on Tuesday], we talked a lot about how this was going to be a tough game. [The Oil Kings] played really hard and I thought they outworked us. That’s the bottom line.”
From there, the game became increasingly physical and chippy as both teams wormed their way under each other’s skins.
The Ice benefitted the most from an uptick in penalties in the period, however, as they had three man advantages. While the Ice struggled to get the puck into dangerous areas throughout the night and were forced wide for board battles continually, they did manage a power play goal near the midway mark.
Unloading his full might on a one-timer, Brett Davis beat Todd Scott, on a goal assisted by Jonathan Smart and Alec Baer. His 17th goal of the year, Davis made good on the January ‘Player of the Month’ award that he was presented before puck drop.
“I think I’m just a confident guy right now and I’ve got to give credit to my linemates,” Davis said of his recent success. “It’s working out, but I’d much rather have the two points from a win than stuff for me [though].
The period ended with nastiness, as Peyton Krebs got into a war in the final two minutes with veteran defenceman Conner McDonald. Taking several ‘clean’ shots at each other in front of the Oil Kings’ net, Krebs eventually went down after being high sticked, but found himself also going to the penalty box for cross-checking.
Managing to get the game into the final intermission down by only one goal, a power play the other way kicked off the final period poorly.
With captain Colton Kroeker in the box for hooking, an unfortunate miscue ended up costing Kootenay. Ending up behind his own net while his team was not in possession of the puck, McGovern was beat by Nick Bowman who had an empty cage handed to him just under a minute in.
Brett Davis, however, soon started the rally for another comeback attempt. Getting a breakaway minutes after getting down 3-1, he made no mistake in his duel with Scott and roofed one top corner on the blocker side.
Unfortunately, a few minutes after that, the Oil Kings cashed on another weird one. With a melee in front of the Ice goal, Brett Kemp found the puck loose in front of the crease and easily floated it in to the astonishment of the entire building.
Ruled a good goal with no further discussion, Edmonton held on and eventually forced Kootenay to pull their goalie. Their number three scorer, Colton Kehler, then found the empty net with less than a minute remaining and secured their lopsided 5-2 win.
According to Patrick, his team just didn’t match the Oil Kings’ extremely physical night and it cost them.
“We’ve got to use our speed [and] get pucks past their D and then, we’ve got to just compete and fight and try to get engaged with it,” he said. “I don’t mean to get in any scrums or anything like that, I mean during the game, you have to be able to get two hands on your stick and battle for a puck.
“We had too many flybys. We didn’t compete or battle back.”
According to Davis, despite the Ice outshooting their opponents 32-25, the difficulty of getting shots through was a major issue as well.
“I thought in the first period, we didn’t get nearly enough shots on net,” Davis said. “As the second and third went on, we got more pucks on net and that’s one of the things we were saying in the room, [we had] to test this goalie out a bit more.”
While Davis was named the game’s second star, Patrick was hard pressed to think of too many players who impressed him in the loss.
“I liked Cole Muir [and] I actually thought that Gilian Kohler was good,” the coach said, “[but] I cannot name you one defenceman that I liked. I thought our defencemen played as scared as they’ve played all year, as far as challenging the gap. I mean we backed in on top of our goalie, we gave them so much ice.”
Because of the loss, the Ice dipped back down to below a 0.500 winning percentage again and are now at 23-24-3-0 but still locked into third place in the Central Division. Heading into the game, Kootenay had been on a three-game winning streak.
The team wraps up their seven-game homestand over the weekend with visits from the Spokane Chiefs and the Swift Current Broncos.