Ice end preseason with two wins

Roster shrinks to 25 with the release of a forward and a defenceman.

Kootenay Ice prospect Collin Shirley takes the puck around the net with Lethbridge Hurricanes defenseman Spencer Galbraith in hot pursuit at a preseason game in the Crowsnest Pass on Friday. The Ice beat the Hurricanes 5-4 and wrapped up exhibition play on Sunday with a 5-4 come-from-behind win against the Calgary Hitmen.

After losing all three games at the Tri-City tournament a week ago, the Ice squeaked out two wins over the weekend to wrap up the exhibition season.

The Ice won both games at scores of 5-4, the first against the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Friday and the second against the Calgary Hitmen on Sunday.

“It’s nice to see that there’s been progression from last weekend to this weekend, so it was good for their confidence to have some success,” said Ice assistant coach Chad Kletzel.

Two prospects were released Sunday evening as the club sent defenseman Jordan Steenbergen, 16, back to the Red Deer Rebels of the Alberta Midget Hockey League, while Doug Morris, 17, will go to a team yet to be determined.

Steenbergen was a third-round pick in the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft, while Morris has been listed with the Ice for the last few years.

It was the final chance for the Ice coaching staff to get a hard look at the prospects before opening the regular season on the road this weekend with games in Edmonton and Calgary.

“It gives us another opportunity in a game situation to see how guys perform and give a good overall perspective of their game and what they bring,” said Kletzel.

Sam Reinhart scored the game-winner on the powerplay as the Ice edged out the Hurricanes 5-4 on Friday to a packed barn at the Coleman Sports Complex in the Crowsnest Pass.

Both teams traded goals throughout the first two periods, but Reinhart’s second goal of the game proved to be the difference maker.

Goaltender Wyatt Hoflin got the win, stopping 33 shots, while Christopher Tai and Tanner Kovacs split duties for the Hurricanes and collectively made 26 saves.

Morris opened the scoring after causing a turnover in the offensive zone and sneaking a shot past Tai at a sharp angle early into the frame.

The Hurricanes tied it up and took the lead when Brady Ramsay got a pair of goals three minutes apart late in the first period.

However, the Ice ended the period all tied up when Erik Benoit scored an empty net goal with 15 seconds left after the puck took a lucky bounce off a stanchion in the corner while the goaltender was out to play it.

Tyler Wong put the Hurricanes ahead in the second period, tipping a shot from the point over Hoflin’s shoulder. However, the Ice tied it up when Reinhart scored his first by one-timing a feed from Brock Montgomery in the slot near the halfway mark of the period.

Ice prospect Collin Shirley scored his first preseason goal to take the lead with three minutes to go in the period after a mad scramble in the Hurricanes’ crease.

Reid Duke managed to find the equalizer with 11 seconds left in the frame, beating an Ice defenseman in a footrace and sneaking a shot past Hoflin.

Reinhart sealed the win with his powerplay marker in the dying minutes of the third period.

Montgomery and Axel Blomqvist dropped the mitts in the final period for a bout, but the Hurricanes’ Swedish import got more than he bargained for as the Ice forward landed a few big punches during the fight.

The Ice capitalized on two powerplays in seven chances, while the Hurricanes scored once in six opportunities.

Jaedon Descheneau and Montgomery both scored a pair of goals as the Ice overcame a four-goal deficit in the third period to come back and beat the Hitmen 5-4 on Sunday.

Despite the hole, it was the Ice who struck first as prospect Kyle O’Conner scored his second goal of the preseason to give the Ice the lead after one period.

However, the second period was all Hitmen, with four even-strength goals coming from Greg Chase, Trevor Cheek, Austin Cadalline and Brady Brassart.

The Ice staunched the bleeding in the third, mounting a comeback as Montgomery and Descheneau scored four minutes apart in the early part of the period, The same two notched another pair of powerplay markers less than a minute apart with seven minutes to go, with Descheneau getting the game-winner.

Mackenzie Skapski got the start and the win, stopping 24 shots, while Mack Shields took the loss while making 22 saves in defeat.

Kletzel said there were things he liked about the team’s play, while noticing areas for improvement during the weekend.

“We had different times in games where we battled back and we showed how we could play in regards to tempo and forechecking,” Kletzel said.

“[But] some things for areas of improvement are consistency in our play, we seem to have a good period and then a very inconsistent period, so it’s something we’ll have to work on.”

The Ice will open the regular season on the road with a game against the defending WHL champions in the Edmonton Oil Kings on Thursday night.