ICE – Broncos Playoff Rematch

By Jeff Bromley
Exactly 361 days ago, the stage was set
in an eerily similar way. The Kootenay
ICE had just finished off a four game
sweep of the Red Deer Rebels. The
Swift Current Broncos had just come off
a hard fought, six-game series with the
Prince Albert Raiders. Fast forward
almost a year to the day and you’ll find
that as much as things change, the more
they stay the same.

After subduing the Moose Jaw Warriors
in four straight games, the Kootenay
ICE continue the defense of their WHL
title tonight (Friday) against the Swift
Current Broncos (7pm at the Cranbrook
Rec/Plex). The Broncos, coming off a
hard-fought series win against the
Brandon Wheat Kings four games to
two, are backstopped by former ICE
goaltender B.J. Boxma who was
obtained in a trade by the Broncos on
October 24, 2000.

It is sufficed then to say that the
motivational factors coming into this
Eastern Conference Semifinal series
aren’t exactly lacking for the Swift
Current Broncos. That being said,
Kootenay ICE Head Coach Ryan
McGill says he and his charges aren’t
going to change anything to so far what
has been a blueprint for success in the
2001 WHL Playoffs. “We’re going to
prepare basically the same way we
prepared for Moose Jaw,” offered
McGill. “The biggest keys for us is
making sure that we’re playing our
systems and they’re not going to
change. We don’t feel that just because
we’re playing Swift Current that we
have to totally change the way we
forecheck or totally change a certain
way that we play the power-play.
“We’re preparing ourselves for a
physical series. We want to initiate that
right off the bat because they just came
off a six game series.”

Adding to the similarities of last year’s
playoff match-up, the ICE are again
facing the specter of an extended lay off
between the first and second rounds,
whereas the Broncos are coming off
only a three-day break. Last season the
Broncos took game one of the series by
a 2-1 score after the ICE came out
somewhat flat after the break. Although
concerned, Coach McGill doesn’t see
that happening again this time around.

“It does (concern me), but at the same
time we’ve given the guys enough time
off,” said McGill. “Our approach this
year is a little different than last year.
We gave them (the players) two or three
days off and had a couple of fun
practices and now we’ve got back to
work today.

“I don’t think that there’s any reason for
us to come out flat on Friday just from
the way we’ve handled this break. I
think that we’ve done a better job than
last year.”

The amount of penalties being called in
the playoffs this spring is enough of a
concern for any playoff embattled coach
and fatigue becomes a looming factor
when your club’s special team’s and
subsequently your top two lines are
garnering the lion’s share of the ice-
time. Coach McGill’s solution to enable
him to roll three or four lines more often
is simple – discipline. “We have to be a
disciplined hockey club to roll as many
guys as we can,” said McGill. “It’s
tough to say. I guess it depends on how
they (the referees) want to call the
penalties. I thought Moose Jaw did a
good job in drawing us into penalties but
I think that Swift Current doesn’t play
quite that type of style. They want to
play more of an end to end game.

“The biggest thing for us is to stay
disciplined and stay out of the box to
make sure that we do get everybody on
the ice because we know how long and
hard it is to play a lot of hockey games
in a short amount of time.”

Quick Hits – The ICE won the season
series between the two clubs 3-1…..
Another former ICE player, Craig
Priestlay won’t be seeing any action in
this series and none at all unless the
Broncos go deep into the playoffs.
Priestlay was handed a ten game
suspension for a match/intent to injure
penalty late in game five of the series
against the Wheat Kings for a vicious
cross-check. Teammate James Hiebert
will also miss the first two games of the
ICE-Broncos series because of three
game suspension resulting from the
same altercation….. The ICE are getting
their scoring from all the usual suspects
– Blatny, Stoll, DeCecco, Jaffray et al –
but they are also getting a much needed
boost from some unlikely sources.
Defensemen Cole Fischer is stepping up
to the playoff plate and has contributed
six points from the blueline. Aaron
Rome has also found his offensive touch
for the playoffs by chipping in a goal and
three helpers in the first round. Good for
a point per game pace. “Those guys
(Rome, Fischer, Hamula, Iannone) are
the guys that we need to contribute,”
said Coach McGill. “We need goals
from our third and fourth line in this
series and we need goals from our back
end from unlikely sources. Not that they
have to change their game but we need
them going as much as everybody
else.”… ICE D-man Trevor Johnson
who probably more than anybody on the
squad welcomed the eight-day break to
help heal a nagging ankle injury, doesn’t
think that the return of his former
teammate B.J. Boxma will much of a
distraction but admits that Boxma will
have all the motivation he’ll need to play
well against the ICE. “Definitely, he’ll
want to step it up and he’ll be gunning
for us but we’ll be gunning for him too.”