The Kootenay ICE want the final weekend to be about their veterans.
The ICE are in Red Deer for the first half of a home and home on Friday before returning home to finish the season Saturday.
Head Coach James Patrick says overagers Colton Kroeker, Alec Baer and Colton Veloso were the heart of the team this season.
“I know they’ve had some great experiences and developed great bonds with their teammates over those four years and it’s a real emotional time.” explains Patrick. “It’s a life change for them that they’re coming into and going onto the next phase of their lives so we want them to have some real fond memories.”
Kootenay was eliminated from playoff contention last week after skidding through the final six weeks. The ICE are currently losers of 11 straight contests.
Patrick says those players are the reason they were in the playoff hunt for so long.
“Colton Kroeker has played two-way hockey [all season], he’s been our number one penalty killer and Veloso has been a good penalty killer for us.” explains the ICE bench boss. “I think Alec Baer has scored more big goals than anyone.”
All three 20-year olds are in the top five in team scoring and are having career years.
Kroeker and Baer are in a dead heat for the team lead in scoring with 58 points each while Veloso has tacked on 44 points of his own.
Patrick says the relationship he’s developed with the three 20-year olds is something he’ll carry with him for a long time.
“Everyone you coach, you want them to have success moving forward in their lives so I will follow their careers and I’ll say ‘Geez, I wonder where they’ll be in ten years.'” says Patrick. “I think it’s maybe the way some teachers feel about their students so that’s all part of the special bond you develop with being on a junior hockey team.”
Colton Kroeker enters his final weekend with 149 points in 250 Western Hockey League games while Baer comes in with 184 points in 340 contests. Veloso, who spent his entire career as a Portland Winterhawk before coming to Cranbrook via trade last offseason, has notched 89 points in 225 career WHL games.
– James Patrick, Kootenay ICE Head Coach