The Kootenay ICE closed the 2018 WHL season Saturday, sweeping their home-and-home series with Red Deer after shutting out the Rebels 5-0 at Western Financial Place.
Recently snapping an eleven-game losing skid, the ICE defeated Red Deer 6-2 Friday on the road only to return to Cranbrook Saturday and pitch the shutout in the team's final game of the season, and for Colton Kroeker, Alec Baer, and Colton Veloso - the final game of their WHL careers.
Named the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Stars Saturday, Kroeker finished the game with one assist, while Baer had a goal and an assist and Veloso had the game's opening goal just minutes in.
Cameron Hausinger would score two goals on the night as well while Duncan McGovern made 19 saves to grab the shutout. The ICE dominated the Rebels all three periods, outshooting Red Deer 49-19 en route to a home victory and a sweep of the home-and-home series.
"It's great to have a good game like that but I think more than anything it says a lot about our group in here," said Duncan McGovern after the contest. "Our 20 bombs did a great job leading us and kind of setting the tone and showing - like it's their last season, so their effort today kind of really showed us how to play."
Prio to puck drop, the Kootenay ICE also dished out their team awards for the season. Amongst the winners were all three overage players as Kroeker was named co-MVP alongside Brett Davis, Alec Baer was given the Player's Award, and Colton Veloso was named the Most Underrated Player.
Playing their final WHL game, it was emotional for the retiring ICE players.
"Felt pretty good, it was weird obviously, sad at the end," said Colton Kroeker as the Kootenay ICE captain held back tears. "I was happy I was able to do it with these guys though, it's been such a fun year."
"I couldn't have asked for a better trio there of 20-year-olds, we had a great time all year," added retiring forward Colton Veloso. "We had fun at the rink together, we had fun at home away from the rink and you know it's tough to say goodbye to them, I'm going to miss them all."
While Kroeker and Veloso aren't exactly sure about their immediate hockey futures, Alec Baer will be lacing up the skates again in a short period of time to pursue a professional opportunity in the ECHL (East Coast Hockey League) with the Rapid City Rush in South Dakota.
"We all got different plans and I think we're all excited about our plans," said Baer. "We're obviously a little bummed it's over but it's just another chapter in whatever we're doing next and those guys know they're excited for what's next to come."
The Kootenay ICE wrap up their 2018 campaign on a two-game winning streak and finish the year 27-38-5-2 with 61 points, just 6 points out of a playoff spot.
Here's the full list of the Kootenay ICE player awards for the 2017/2018 season:
- Most Improved Player: Cameron Hausinger
- Most Underrated Player: Colton Veloso
- Rookie of the Year: Peyton Krebs
- Top Defenceman: Martin Bodak
- Community Relations Award: Dallas Hines
- Player's Award: Alec Baer
- MVP: Colton Kroeker and Brett Davis
The Kootenay ICE now officially enter the off-season looking to do one better next season and make the playoffs.
"There was so many valuable lessons learned, especially with our returning players and our young players," said James Patrick, Kootenay ICE Head Coach. "I think a lot of players got better over the course of the year."
While three Kootenay ICE players now move on beyond the WHL the team returns next season with another year of experience, and with another couple young additions expected to crack the roster next season, that could help push the ICE into the post-season when it's all said and done in 2019, potentially breaking what has now become a three-year playoff drought.
Look below for full interviews from netminder Duncan McGovern, Head Coach James Patrick, and the trio of retiring ICE players.
(All photos: Bradley Jones)
- Bradley Jones
Audio: Duncan McGovern, Kootenay ICE Goalie (Full Interview)
Audio: Colton Kroeker, Retiring Kootenay ICE Captain (Full Interview)
Audio: Alec Baer, Retiring Kootenay ICE Player (Full Interview)
Audio: Colton Veloso, Retiring Kootenay ICE Player (Full Interview)
Audio: James Patrick, Kootenay ICE Head Coach (Full Interview)