Boxma still haunting the ICE

By Jeff Bromley

Boxma still haunting the ICE

B.J. Boxma doesn’t have anything left to prove against the Kootenay ICE. The Edson, Alberta native accomplished that goal last April when he backstopped his Swift Current Broncos to a seventh game Eastern Conference Semifinal win over the ICE to unceremoniously boot his former mates from last year’s playoffs.

Now the former 1996 Kootenay ICE 4th round Bantam pick would love nothing more than to make it a habit of waltzing into the Cranbrook Rec/Plex and strutting out with a win. Unfortunately for him or perhaps more fortunate for the ICE, the Broncos won’t visit the Key City due to Kootenay’s change of conference last summer. Unless of course, another playoff match-up is in the cards.

It this winning habit over the ICE becoming an obsession?

“Nah,” said a humble Boxma. “I think that the boys just wanted to win it for me. It’s probably my last game here ever and I wanted to go out with a victory. The guys played really well in front of me tonight.”

Both Boxma and his Bronco teammates played well-enough to get past a lack-luster Kootenay ICE squad 4-3 Wednesday night. But in the third period with the Broncos clinging to a one goal lead and Kootenay peppering 17 shots on the Bronco netminder, it was Boxma that ensured none of those shots hit the twine. It was Boxma’s second consecutive win following a 1-0 win over the Prince Albert Raiders and surprisingly enough, it was Boxma’s first shutout in his 102 game WHL career.

With the sun setting on his junior hockey career, his club a force to be reckoned with in the WHL’s Eastern Conference and Boxma ready to lead his club on a drive for a WHL championship, things couldn’t be much better., right? Not exactly. There is the little stumbling block that Boxma is very familiar with in his experiences in the WHL – he’s not the bonafide number one goaltender in Speedy Creek any longer.

If it’s any consolation, he’s not the backup either.

Last season Calgary product Todd Ford was the backup goalie to B.J. Boxma in Swift Current. As a sixteen-yr-old Ford played twenty games and sported a 12-4-2 record and quietly thrived under the tutelage of Boxma who shouldered the lion’s share of the netminding duties. It was the overwhelming reason the Broncos had acquired him. This season, although Ford is a highly rated prospect for the 2002 NHL Draft and the highest-rated WHL goaltender in the October edition of the Red Line Report of draft eligible players, it was expected that Boxma would assume the number one spot and Ford would again be coming on in relief. That, as it would turn out, wouldn’t exactly be the case.

Sound strikingly like Boxma’s tour duty with the ICE? The particulars are similar but the results aren’t the same. At least not yet.

Starting off red hot as the Broncos rattled off eight wins in a row to start the season, both tenders competed fiercely as they split the eight wins at four a piece. Aside from a poor outing against lowly Prince Albert at the beginning of November for Boxma, both he and Ford have been a solid tandem and key to the Broncos success so far the season.

Still, B.J. wonders at the fact that he seems to attract star young goaltenders wherever he goes. “Yeah, for sure. It’s like it follows me or something,” quipped Boxma of what almost seems to be cruel fate. “My first year here in Kootenay, Clayton Pool was twenty-yrs-old and the local guy. The next year Blackburn came in and it’s Dan Blackburn, so I couldn’t really do anything about it and last year I finally got a chance to start and finally had some success.”

Even though Boxma sports an 8-4-2 record he thinks his record should be better. “I think I struggled at times this year,” said Boxma despite the fact I’m sure there would be a lineup of WHL goalies that would trade records with him. “Some bad bounces, I guess but you’ve got to give Ford credit. He’s stood on his head the first ten or twelve games of the season.”

“We’ve got this rotation going. If you win you keeping playing, if you lose, the other goes back in. Now I’ve got two in a row so I want to keep it going”

If it seems like Deja vu all over again for Boxma, he’s taking it all in stride. But don’t get him wrong, he’d still like to be the number one, undisputed go to guy and with the season only two months old he still might be. For now however, the system of whichever tender wins, plays, is fine by him. “It would be great if I could take the number one spot but that’s not the way it works. It’s a good situation with me and Todd. We battle each other in practice and battle each other off the ice a little bit but we’re good friends and I think it might be a good situation for us and the team with having two goalies playing well. Down the stretch it’s going to pay off.”