ICE departure melts Kootenay hearts
By Ian Cobb
As spring finally arrives following an annoyingly persistent winter and the great thaw begins, there will be something extra flowing from the Rockies to the prairies.
Western Hockey League teams – Canadian Hockey League teams – are forever turning over talent so to remain consistently competitive and in the playoffs, as the ICE were for most of their tenure in Cranbrook, must be recognized with pride and appreciation.
And much of that respect goes to Jeff Chynoweth and his pop Ed, whose off ice teams always found ways to make the on ice great to watch.
Little Cranbrook and the East Kootenay (with a combined population smaller than Lethbridge), did yeoman’s work in supporting this club, operating in the smallest market in the league.
We will always remember the brilliant Memorial Cup championship team (2001/02) or the three WHL league champs (1999/2000; 2001/02; 2011/11).
From 1998/99 to 2014/15, the ICE marched to the playoffs without break.
Only the final four seasons in the Key City were sub par, on and off the ice and at the gate, though an impressive collection of die hards stuck with them; proof that Cranbrook – and the Kootenays – remain a hockey hotbed.
We will always remember the great players and coaches who toiled in the Rockies and despite the sour nature of this franchise’s departure to Winnipeg, Manitoba, where the team nickname will truly apply, we appreciate the efforts of this year’s players.
The ICE bid adieu to Cranbrook last night before 2,684 sad fans at Western Financial Place in fitting fashion, posting a rare 5-4 victory over the Red Deer Rebels.
Michael Milne broke a 4-4 deadlock with 5:44 left in regulation, scoring the final goal for the ICE on home ice.
Milne led the way with a goal and an assist, along with Jaeger White. Brad Ginnell added a pair of helpers, while Nolan Orzeck, Holden Kodak and Connor McClennon also scored.
Curtis Meger stopped 25 shots for the ICE to collect the win.
The ICE finish the season last in the Central Division, with 13 wins, 45 defeats, seven overtime losses and three shootout losses. The ICE also finished second last in the Eastern Conference and the league, ahead of only the Swift Current Broncos.
Considered a top 15 National Hockey League 2019 draft prospect, ICE centre Peyton Krebs led the team in scoring with 19 goals and 49 assists. His 68 points placed him 40th in league scoring.
Lead image: Kootenay ICE players salute the crowd following the final game at Western Financial Place Sunday, March 17. Photos courtesy Chris Botterill/Genex Marketing