WHL's Ice flying under the radar


, Last Updated: 9:52 AM ET

WINNIPEG - Cody Eakin and the Kootenay Ice arent 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 theyd even get to the Canadian major junior hockey championship.

Weve 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 thats where were rated, then so be it. Well 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?

Its pretty much the same pressure, he said. Everyone felt coming into the playoffs this is our year. Were 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 Canadas 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 doesnt 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 Ive been doing, Eakin said. Theres 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.