Brand-new year, same old story

By Jeff Bromley

With the progression of the calendar comes the glimmer of new hopes and new dreams for a new year. For the Kootenay ICE, the new year still holds that promise. It just didn’t show itself on the year’s first day with a 5-3 loss to the Medicine Hat Tigers and when it will show up is anyone’s guess.

In what could very well turn out to be the one of the more crucial home stands’ of the year, the ICE have struck out the first two out of three and have two formidable opponents in the on-deck circle. In the past week Kootenay has offered up a Christmas turkey in the form of last Friday’s 3-0 drubbing by the Moose Jaw Warrior, the first time in recent memory that the club has been shutout at home. They’ve been a force in more than just the goals column of the score-sheet with the six-goal, six-fight outburst as the Lethbridge Hurricanes were doubled 6-3 the very next night. Completing the up again, down again cycle, the aforementioned drubbing by the Tigers to start off 2002 with a whiff.

Coach Ryan McGill knew why his depleted club didn’t succeed against the Tigers after an all-around team effort in the win over Lethbridge just three nights earlier. He just didn’t know why his players didn’t. “It’s a concern everyday,” said McGill of what seems like the two different clubs that don the ICE jerseys on any given night. “Our biggest thing tonight is that every mental mistake we made they put in the back of the net and consequently at the other end, we couldn’t score.

“That was the bottom line. We had no mental intensity in any area tonight.”

McGill also fingered the defensive zone breakdowns, not necessarily by just the defense but the club as whole, a theme that has been prevalent of late. “We had ample chances to win the game (the ICE out-shot the Tigers 38-20) but we weren’t committed to our zone and in this day and age you have to be committed to both ends of the rink. We weren’t. That’s why we lost the game tonight.”

Igor Agarunov, who has stepped his ability in absence of impact players off at the various tournaments, summed his club’s performance up succinctly, if not originally. “Flat,” said Agarunov. “We were flat. I don’t know, we had our chances but we were flat. Flat, that’s all I can say.”

Tiger Coach Bob Loucks was much happier with his club’s result over the last time Medicine Hat visited the Rec./Plex, a 4-3 overtime loss that left a bitter taste in his mouth. “Yeah, we had a better effort than last time. I thought we had the game won,” said Loucks “Stuff happens and that’s the way it goes. Tonight we had a good effort from a very inexperienced group of guys.”

The Tigers, in a dogfight with the Calgary Hitmen for a playoff spot in the Central Division, have played well of late. In spite of the fact they’ve been and will continue to be, without the likes of Jay Bouwmeester, Petr Chvojka and Ryan Hollweg for the better part of a month. A depleted line-up like most WHL clubs however, the Tabbies have played somewhat better a fact not lost on Coach Loucks. “We had a lot of guys that chipped in tonight and production out of guys that don’t play a lot,” said Loucks. “That’s important when you’ve got so many people away. Much like Kootenay there’s a lot of players that aren’t here and it’s hard to play with a lot of call-ups and guys who don’t get a lot of ice-time.”

Quick Hits -The biggest hit of the game came from Agarunov when he caught Bret Draney with his head down and in the trolley tracks and leveled him with a clean shoulder check with five minutes remaining in the third. Exhilaration of the great hit quickly turned to nervous anticipation when Draney failed to get up. Lying on the ice for about ten minutes, Draney left the rink under his own power after being knocked out from either the hit or the fall to the ice. The early prognosis is a probable concussion. For his troubles Draney was named the game’s first star as the 20-year-old was a force all night.

Say what you want about the tea-drinking, fight-hating mentality toward fighting in the game today, but I didn’t see a whole lot of the 3607 in attendance last Saturday heading for the exits when a full-scale line brawl broke out with 24 seconds left in the game. Entertaining in a ‘slow down to see an accident’ sort of way, the brouhaha even featured goaltender B.J. Boxma in his first feature bout against his Lethbridge counterpart Blake Ward. “Right at the end when all the forwards started getting into it, he (Hurricane goalie Ward) had his back turned and I started to skate out towards the blueline,” said Boxma “I didn’t know what was going to happen and things really started to get going and Ward turned around and saw me and went like this (motions the faux dropping of gloves that fighters do before a tilt). He threw his gloves down and I did and rest is history.” For the record the bout was scored a unanimous decision in favor of Boxma, finally earning his nickname, ‘Boxer’. Boxma’s knuckle on his blocker hand swelled up like a balloon after the fight and the pain still hadn’t subsided by Tuesday. Freezing had to be applied in order for him to suit up against the Tigers . . .

Jeremy Schenderling, a 15-yr-old, 2001 first round Bantam pick has been called up to play over the holidays for the ICE from his Langley ‘AAA’ Bantam team. In the three games so far the 6’2″, 178lb center hasn’t looked out of place. Earning kudos from Coach McGill for his effort, the 1986-born Schenderling has been rewarded with power-play time and ice-time in key situations. Schenderling will play in the weekends’ games against Portland and Calgary . . . Next up for the ICE are the WinterHawks on Friday and the Hitmen on Saturday. Both games are a 7PM start time at the ‘Plex.