For those of you lining up to buy your projected number one overall draft pick Tyler Benson jerseys, it may have to be a Giant jersey, or a Cougar as the Ice are doing their best impression of a team headed to the playoffs rather than being in line for a lottery pick at this May's Bantam Draft.
Erik Benoit scored two goals and Sam Reinhart added his 16th of the year as the Ice beat the Red Deer Rebels 3-2 Sunday night at the Rec Plex for the club's 5th straight win.
The Ice are now 15-24-1 with 31 points. Still 9 games below .500 the Ice are only nine points out of a playoff spot, not an insurmountable amount by any stretch. They leapfrogged the Cougars and are now 9 points clear of the Giants for the WHL's basement.
Does this change the attitude concerning dealing a chip or two (read: Leach or Montgomery, or a Benoit) at the deadline? Hearing some inquiries as to their availability but the price is high - set recently with the trade of power forward Kale Kessy from the Vancouver Giants to the Kamloops Blazers for 18-year-old winger Rob Trzonkowski and a 5th round pick in 2015. Scuttlebutt has the cost for Leach or Montgomery higher, especially now that a playoff spot is on the horizon. The WHL's trade deadline is January 10.
The glass floor of 2100 was broken tonight at WFP with an announced attendance of 2094, the first time in the 13-year history of the building that a regular season crowd has fallen below 2100. The Ice averaging 2326 through 24 dates this season, almost 500 off of last year's pace. Where do 500 fans go in such a small market? A bigger market - say Vancouver - yes, 500 is a lot but the significance is much more poignant in the WHL's second smallest market.
Some stats to throw at you to chew on:
F Sam Reinhart, with 37 points (16 g 21 a) is on an identical pace points-wise (62 in 67 games) for a .93 PPG as he was as a 16-year-old rookie. That was playing with brother Max and when he wasn't, not having to face every team's top shut-down D-men every night as is the case this season.
Team Defense: While most know that the Ice are the league's lowest scoring team (now tied with the Cougars as the club notched three to get to 101 on the season), they're middle of the pack - 7th in the Eastern Conference and 13th in the WHL in goals against. No small feat for a young team with a goaltender (Skapski) that has taken heat this season and had to live up to some big (Lieuwen) shoes to fill.
As the world begins to turn again with the NHL ready to ramp up after a 110 day lockout - for the record, I think the owners blinked, nobody really won and Don Fehr is worth every penny he's paid from the players to fend off the owners trying to erode their gains made over the last 20 years - rosters will change that should affect former Ice players:
In Abbotsford with the AHL's Heat, farm team of the Flames, does D Steve McCarthy get a shot with the big club after some good play with the Heat? Will a spot open up with the Heat for former D James Martin as players move up the ladder? Martin is with the ECHL's Utah Grizzlies and playing well. Does Dustin Sylvester get a shot at the Flames? Probably not this year. What about F Matt Fraser and the rebuilding Dallas Stars? G Nathan Lieuwen is carrying the mail for the Greenville Road Warriors in the ECHL (11-8-1; .901 sv%; 3.00 GAA) but will probably have to wait a year to have a shot with the Buffalo Sabres AHL affiliate in Rochester. Though D Brayden McNabb will have a shot to play full-time this season with the Sabres.
F Colin Shirley is back from the U-17 tournament but didn't play tonight. He might get into Tuesday's game. F Jakub Prochazka sat out his 4th straight game while G Mackenzie Skapski started his 5th straight game and notched his 5th straight win.
The Edmonton Oil Kings are here Tuesday.