Image credit: Cold Lake Ice Junior B Facebook Page. The Cold Lake Ice before puck drop on Jan. 11 against the Vermilion Tigers.
The Cold Lake Ice are looking to close out the season strong.
With three games left in the regular season, the Ice (12-15-1-1) sit 5th in the NEAJBHL just four points back of the Killam Wheat Kings, but with the same margin on the 6th place Lloydminster Bandits who have two games in hand.
The team is coming off of a gritty 7-5 loss to the Lac La Biche Clippers, the league’s first-place team, with just 11 forwards.
Coach Scott Hood liked his team’s effort on the weekend but is aware of the standings heading into a playoff.
“We played simple and smart. They scored an empty netter with one second left, but it’s a 6-5 game. We battled hard, the guys that were there, and showed we could play with those guys,” said Hood.
“No game is a guarantee in this league anymore. They [Lloydminster] have the opportunity to catch us for 5th. We’re going to try and win out and see what happens.”
Hood said the team has been playing well since the Christmas break despite being 3-4 down that stretch.
The Ice have been involved in close games all season as they hold a 6-7 record in one-goal games this year.
“You take half of those, three out of the seven, now you’re 15-12-1 and comfortably finish 4th.”
A couple of Bonnyville Pontiacs have given the Ice a boost.
Bonnyville-native Austin Saint and forward Curtis Hammond were by placed on Junior B affiliate cards by the Pontiacs in January and provided some offensive flair in their few appearances.
Saint put up seven points in four appearances, while Hammond scored a pair of goals in the team’s 6-4 win over the Vegreville Rangers on Jan. 12.
“Saint knows a lot of the guys and played well. He came in and stepped up and was a leader. He was pretty vocal and picked up some points as well. He could score at any given time and is an offensive threat in our league every time he touches the puck.
“Hammond too, not sure how much we’ll see him, but he’s got some offensive upside, played a lot of ice time. 5 on 5. Penalty kill. Powerplay. We’ll definitely see if we can get them in the lineup again for some of these games down the stretch.”
Marc Ouelette leads the team in scoring with 24 points in 25 appearances while Wyatt Cook and Tyler Shankowsky have led the way with 11 goals each.
On Saturday they host the Killam Wheat Kings at the Energy Centre and the team is doing their annual food bank drive.
If playoffs began today, they would face each other in the first round.
“I think in all three games they beat us by one goal, so it would be nice to beat them here. Give our guys some confidence that we can beat every team. They are one of the teams we haven’t beaten yet. Could give ourselves an opportunity to finish fourth if they lose them all and we win a few,” said Hood.
“At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where you finish, you’re still gonna have to beat some good teams to win the league or get to where you need to be.”