Home stand gets off on the wrong foot

By Jeff Bromley

Riding high after a red-hot 8-0-2-2 start, the Kootenay ICE ran headlong into a brick wall with a picture of a dead cow’s skull on it over the weekend – in the form of a 5-2 loss to the Red Deer Rebels. Looking to exact some vindication upon the Lethbridge Hurricanes Saturday night, when the dust settled the ‘Canes had waltzed out of Cranbrook with a 2-1 overtime win, their second in as many visits to the Cranbrook Rec./Plex.

Heading into the final three games of a five game home-stand, if the weekend’s results weren’t the alarm bells sounding a rude wake-up call, somebody needed to get off the snooze-button.

Nobody ever said defending a Memorial Cup title would be easy.

If the games against the Rebels and the Hurricanes were exercises in humility, what they weren’t were displays in physicality. If opposing teams are trying to find ways to combat the speed and puck control of the ICE, getting physical may be the answer.

Coach Cory Clouston disagreed however, citing the club getting away from what it does best as the reason for the lack of success over the weekend.

“I don’t think so,” said Clouston. “It’s the size of your heart that matters. We obviously don’t have a real big team. We’ve got guys whose game is down low and cycling the puck using their strength and their ability to come out from the corners. We were doing that earlier on this year and (now) we’re not doing that near enough.

“We’ve got guys which (speed and puck control)is their game, that’s their style but we’re just trying to be too fancy at times and we’re not really bearing down when we have the opportunities. It’s frustrating but you have to start, not directly from scratch but you have to get back to what gave us the success early and if we do that we’ll be fine.”

Realities of whatever shortcomings had over the weekend, to say that it’s premature to hit the panic button would be a blatant understatement. The vociferous discontent from Rec./Plex bleachers aside, Clouston is reassuring in his assessment. It is, after all, only October. “They shouldn’t be because there’s only been one game where we don’t even have a point,” said Clouston of the armchair G.M.’s and coaches. “This was the fourth game in five nights and fatigue became a factor. You’re going to have to learn to overcome that kind of thing but there’s not any panic in any way shape or form.”

That said, Clouston added that lineup without team captain Colin Sinclair or the club’s leader in the physical department, Kyle Sheen who’s out with a broken thumb, cannot be overstated. “Right now we’ve got a fairly young lineup going. When you lose guys like Sinclair and Sheen, with their experience and the fact their guys that are bigger and stronger, they’re both 200lb forwards that help in that aspect. We know we’re going to get them back. It’s just a matter of time.”

“What happens when you do these things is that your mistakes become noticeable and it gives you something to work on.”

Almost as noticeable as the defensive misgivings were the Rec./Plex crowd’s boisterous disapproval of the club’s blueliners. After each of the glaringly obvious mistakes, the crowd became increasingly discontent, to put it mildly. Clouston was quick to preach patience however. “You know what? It might,” said Clouston of the effect of the catcalls from the ICE faithful on the club’s defensive unit, with Steve Makway taking the brunt of them. “They’re still obviously young people. They’re out there trying to do their best, whether they’re having a good night or not. Some of these defensemen are in situations that there aren’t used to or familiar with yet. They were having success early and now they’re starting to get away from what gave that success just like most of the other guys. All’s it going to take is to refocus and to do that as individuals and as a team as a whole and then we’ll be just fine.”

Quick Hits – Kootenay captain Colin Sinclair was listed as questionable whether or not he’d play Wednesday against Kamloops or Friday against Saskatoon. Sinclair suffered what was described as a slight concussion October 15 against Tri-Cities after being hit from behind by Americans’ forward Jason Beeman . . . Forward Kyle Sheen is out with a broken thumb indefinitely . . . Sunday’s game against the Brandon Wheat Kings will be broadcast live across the Roger’s SportsNet network beginning at 6:00 P.M.