Blazers burn Kootenay Ice 8-1

*This is a Kootenay Ice game recap that I wrote for the Cranbrook Townsman .*

Photo Credit: Brad McLeod

Kootenay Ice head coach Luke Pierce did not mince words following the team’s 8-1 loss to the Kamloops Blazers on Saturday night.

He was embarrassed by the team’s performance and was especially upset to see it happen on home ice.

“Our fans should be lining up at the ticket window to get their money back,” Pierce said following the game. “They pay for entertainment, and there’s no entertainment in that.

“[Playing that way] is unacceptable anywhere but especially at home — our fan base is extremely loyal and dedicated — and they deserve way better.”

Although the Ice didn’t look too bad in the opening ten minutes of the first period, they couldn’t capitalize on their early chances and left the door open for Kamloops to grab a 3-0 lead going into the first intermission.

“We came out flat. We didn’t have a good start and then [it didn’t get any better],” said veteran centreman Matt Alfaro on the night. Alfaro had an assist and along with his linemates Zak Zborosky and Vince Loschiavo, was the only player to come out of the game with a positive plus/minus.

“[In] the first period, you have Jake Elmer with a tap-in goal that he misses, you have [Loschiavo] with a tap-in goal that he misses, [Zborosky] with a breakaway that he misses and [Jakob Walter] gives up a bad third goal,” Pierce said on their start. “It could’ve been a 3-2 game, but [it wasn’t] and then we quit.”

The coach said that while the team had the proper work ethic in the first period, they showed a lack of resiliency which the Blazers took full advantage of.

Although Loschiavo managed to score a goal in his seventh straight game — the WHL’s longest current goal-scoring streak — the Blazers had a field day in the second period, putting in five goals.

In the midst of the barrage of goals, Kamloops chased Walter in favour of Payton Lee who let in the final three tallies. In the third period, the Ice managed to preserve the 8-1 game but exited dejected.

“In the third [the Blazers] started to slow down and we started to play a little better,” Alfaro said. “Obviously when it gets to a certain point you start doubting yourselves as a team but we tried to make sure it didn’t get too out of hand, especially at home.”

Despite the loss, Alfaro did feel positive about the chemistry of his own line and the league’s hottest scorer.

“[Loschiavo’s] been good, our line has been clicking with me and Zborosky feeding him,” Alfaro said of the emerging Ice star. “He should’ve had a few more but I’m sure he’ll score [on Sunday].”

Despite the recent success of their top-three forwards, results have not followed. Alfaro’s line has 20 points combined in the Ice’s past five games, but the team hasn’t picked up a win in that span.

“I can only focus on how I play and as long as I’m playing well, being a leader, I think they’ll all follow me,” he said. “Even [our line] should’ve had a couple more [goals] tonight, though.”

For Pierce, however, the game reflected a poor performance from the entire lineup.

“There was nothing acceptable about our effort, from our goaltenders to our defencemen — everybody,” he said. “We had two great practices this week [so] I certainly didn’t see that coming tonight.

“I thought we were going to be great today, I really did. Maybe the great practices made our guys think we could just show up and be good.”

On the Blazers end, they received a solid performance from goaltender Dylan Ferguson who made 19 saves on 20 shots, while wingers Quinn Benjafield and Jermaine Loewen both had two-goal nights in the blowout.

Blazers rookie Ryley Appelt also scored his first career goal in his WHL debut.

The final shots were 34 for Kamloops and 20 for Kootenay.

The Ice now have one final chance to head into the holiday break on a positive note as they face the Calgary Hitmen in a matinee game on Sunday.

“[We] took the night off [on Saturday] so it shouldn’t be an issue,” Pierce said on preparing for the quick turnaround. “Maybe changing the routine and getting on the bus at 7 o’clock in the morning and changing our whole mental approach will be a good thing for us.

“I would certainly expect that [we’ll] be a lot better than we were today and if they’re not then that’s a huge cause for concern.”

Puck drop will be at 2 p.m. tomorrow at the Saddledome.

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