The Winnipeg Ice have yet to find a comfort level in their new home.
The Ice surrendered three goals before the game was nine minutes old and were thumped 7-0 by the Edmonton Oil Kings in Western Hockey League action Friday night.
Starting netminder Will Gurski was beaten cleanly on hard wrist shots by Liam Keeler at the 2:39 mark and Josh Williams just over two minutes later, and had no chance on Vladimir Alistrov’s goal at 8:41 after a centring pass from Williams.
Winnipeg is 3-2-1, with both defeats coming at Wayne Fleming Arena. The East Division squad is playing its inaugural season in the provincial capital after relocating from Cranbrook, B.C., in time for the 2019-20 WHL campaign.
"For sure, it’s frustrating because these are our home fans and we want to put on a good show for them," said Ice defenceman and alternate captain Chase Hartje. "(Edmonton) played really good, and it’s junior hockey and these games happen.
"You look at the shots. We outshot them but they got a few bounces right off the bat and momentum went their way."
What a night to remember it was for Sebastian Cossa. The Oil Kings goalie, making his first WHL start, turned aside 40 shots for a well-earned shutout as Edmonton upped its record to 3-1-2.
Listed at 6-4, 212 pounds yet still seven weeks shy of his 17th birthday, Cossa was positionally sound and displayed exceptional movement in the crease. He snapped a leg out to prevent a sure goal by Nino Kinder — stationed alone on the doorstep — early in the middle frame with the hosts down 3-0 but pressing on the power play, and then duplicated the save late in the period, denying Owen Pederson from in tight.
Jakin Smallwood, who had 13 goals a year ago as a WHL rookie, was the busiest shooter of the night for the Ice, registering four shots, but couldn’t solve Cossa.
Conner McDonald and Riley Sawchuk, with his team-leading fourth of the year, added second-period goals for Edmonton, while Scott Atkinson and Jake Neighbours continued the onslaught in the third.
Winnipeg head coach James Patrick didn’t like most of what he saw at the rink on the University of Manitoba campus.
"Their goalie was really good. But I don’t know if we paid the price to get in front of the net and make it hard on him to see pucks. I thought we had some chances that we didn’t bear down and put through the back of the net," said Patrick. "But once they got the 3-0 lead they probably even sat back for a bit.
"It was just, top to bottom, disappointing. We were outplayed. They’re a good-skating team that lives off the rush and their counters, which we talked about before the game and still got caught. Their first three goals were all rush goals that we could have made better decisions with the puck in the offensive zone but didn’t. Then, we’re chasing them up the ice."
Gurski finished with 28 saves. Winnipeg came up empty on five power-play opportunities, while killing off a pair of minors penalties late in the contest.
The Ice opened the season with a win in Brandon and then went 2-0-1 on a swing through Saskatchewan last weekend. Patrick said the group desperately wants to impress at home.
"We want to win for the fans. We want to start making it a little bit of a tougher place to play, at home. But we haven’t been there. In both the games we played here, I just haven’t like the effort, just the all-around compete. We had it from some guys, just not enough guys."
Matthew Savoie, just 15 years old, suited up for his third game with the Ice and skated on a forward line with Owen Pederson and Cole Muir. The first-overall pick in the WHL bantam draft has a special exemption to play 34 games this season as an underage player.
The Ice play the visiting Vancouver Giants tonight. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
Defenceman Bowen Byram will be in the Giants lineup. The 18-year-old from Cranbook, selected fourth overall by the Colorado Avalanche at the NHL draft in June, was reassigned to his junior squad in late September.
On Friday in Brandon, the Giants were blanked 3-0 by the Wheat Kings.
Assistant sports editor
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).