WHL's Ice flying under the radar

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:52 AM ET

WINNIPEG - Cody Eakin and the Kootenay Ice aren’t getting a lot of respect in southern Ontario, which is perfectly fine with them.

Not many pundits are predicting the WHL champions will win the Memorial Cup, which kicked off Friday night in Mississauga, Ont. Then again, not many west of Winnipeg figured they’d even get to the Canadian major junior hockey championship.

“We’ve had that all playoffs pretty much, ever since Saskatoon (in the second round),” said Eakin, a Winnipegger who was traded to the Ice in January. “If that’s where we’re rated, then so be it. We’ll take it in stride.”

The Ice kick off the round robin on Saturday against the OHL-champion Owen Sound Attack.

The Ice acquired Eakin from the Swift Current Broncos in January for five players and three draft picks, a trade Ice GM Jeff Chynoweth said was made to help Kootenay contend for the WHL title.

Eakin did just that, recording 27 points in 19 playoff games, and the Ice have won 15 of their last 16 contests. So now that he helped the Ice win a WHL title, does that mean the heat is off of Eakin?

“It’s pretty much the same pressure,” he said. “Everyone felt coming into the playoffs this is our year. We’re here for a reason.”

The Ice lineup also features Winnipeg defencemen James Martin and Luke Paulsen.

Eakin has had a busy year, playing 30 games for the Broncos, seven more for Canada’s silver medal-winning junior team and then another 45 for the Ice. The Washington Capitals draft pick said he still has enough gas left in the tank.

Despite his international and big-game experience, Eakin doesn’t believe Kootenay head coach Kris Knoblauch will be looking to him alone to provide the leadership during the 10-day event.

“I think he just expects me to do what I’ve been doing,” Eakin said. “There’s so many guys that are contributing on the team and working hard and all doing the same thing. He looks at me as much as he looks at the next guy.”


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