Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

Ask forward Cody Eakin, about his "underdog" Kootenay Ice and you can tell he's rehearsed this answer.

No one expected the Kootenay to beat the powerhouse Saskatoon Blades with the likes of Brayden Schenn and Curtis Hamilton - but they did with a four game sweep.

When the Ice later faced the Portland Winterhawks in the Western Hockey League Final, they were once again given the same label. They beat Portland in five games to hoist the Ed Chynoweth Cup.

"Going against Saskatoon they were (one of the top ranked teams) in the country," said Eakin. "Then we were up for debate again in the round after that (versus Medicine Hat). Against Portland we were so-called the ‘underdog,' but it's not a bad thing to be called that especially if you have the confidence in the room to know that you can prove people wrong and that's what we have."

Ice goalie Nathan Lieuwen, who was named as the WHL's playoff MVP, said he actually enjoys the thought of being the underdog.

"I've come to like that word actually," said Lieuwen after the team's afternoon skate. "We don't get the media scrutiny, they just say we're the underdogs and leave it at that.

"It doesn't matter to me, because I have pressure either way."

Still, coming into the 2011 Memorial Cup as the newly crowned WHL champions, there's no way any of the other team at the tournament - Owen Sound, Mississauga and Saint John -- are going to take the Ice lightly.

Eakin (photo) believes they won't need to prove anything extra though they'll still be under the gun when they face the OHL champion Owen Sound Attack in their tournament opener on Saturday at Mississauga's Hershey Centre.

"It's healthy pressure and everyone feels that," said Eakin on Thursday afternoon.  "I think it's going to be healthy and hopefully it can turn into good energy so we can rally around that for the guys."

Eakin, a Washington Capitals prospect, is no stranger to pressure having played with Team Canada at the world junior championships. Shortly after the tournament he was dealt to the Ice in a blockbuster trade from the Swift Current Broncos in exchange for five players and three draft picks - including a first and second round selection.

"I felt pressure to perform," said Eakin of the January deal that sent him to Kootenay. "I didn't go in there expecting to change my game or do anything different. They like the way I play, so I was going to come here and just do what I do - work hard. It was so great that I got the chance to be with this team. The work ethic from everyone is just through the roof. From when I got here, we're just come so far to where we are now - it's just phenomenal, I'm so happy to be a part of it."

The 19-year-old said the Ice are by far the tightest group of player he's ever played with in terms of their personalities.

"If you're not working hard, you're going to get a kick in the butt," said Eakin. "But at the same time you're going to have a lot of laughs with them too.

"There are no egos. No one cares who gets the final goal, one night it's (Max) Reinhart, one night it's (Matt) Fraser, one night it's (Joe) Antilla, everyone just contributing at different times. It's really fun."

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