Ice get chilly reception during U.S. road trip

Winterhawks and Silvertips show no mercy as Kootenay struggles in first major road trip of the season.

The Kootenay Ice have returned from their first major road trip of the season smarting from three straight losses after an excursion into the U.S. Division of the WHL.

Following their 7-4 loss to the Seattle Thunderbirds last Wednesday, the Ice rolled into the weekend and dropped consecutive contests to the Portland Winterhawks and the Everett Silvertips.

Kootenay blew a 2-1 lead against the hottest team in the WHL, as the Winterhawks scored three third period goals to win 4-2 on Friday, while Everett rode a 3-2 lead after the opening period and won the game by a score of 4-3 the following night.

The Winterhawks have won 16 of their last 17 games, while Everett’s victory was a quick turnaround from a midweek road loss to the Spokane Chiefs.

Ice head coach Ryan McGill points to inconsistent goaltending as game-changing factors in both affairs.

Wyatt Hoflin got the start against Portland and was peppered with 48 shots, while Mackenzie Skapski stood in goal against the Silvertips, giving up four goals in 28 shots.

“I didn’t think our goaltending was consistent, from both guys all weekend,” said McGill. “We gave up a poor rebound on Portland’s winning goal to one of the leading scores in the league so that can’t happen.

“The other guy, yesterday [Saturday] in a game that we needed to win…a tough outing altogether for him.”

Three third period goals erased a one-goal deficit to lift the Winterhawks to the win over the Ice on Friday evening.

‘Hawks forward Paul Bittner picked up the garbage from teammate Taylor Peters, who’d driven to the net with the puck but lost the handle, for an early lead.

However, the Ice responded in the second period, when Levi Cable stuffed in a wrap-around for his second goal of the season and Kyle O’Connor picked up a rebound off a slap shot from Joey Leach at the point to pull ahead.

The third period decided the contest, as Portland surged for three goals to earn the win.

‘Hawks forward Paul Bittner picked up the garbage from teammate Taylor Peters, who’d driven to the net with the puck but lost the handle, for an early lead.

However, the Ice responded in the second period, when Levi Cable stuffed in a wrap-around for his second goal of the season and Kyle O’Connor picked up a rebound off a slap shot from Joey Leach at the point to pull ahead.

The third period decided the contest, as Portland surged for three goals to earn the win.

Nic Petan had a pair of goals to tie the game and take the lead—the first when he trailed an odd-man rush and pounced on a loose puck and the second when he finished a rebound off a shot from Ty Rattie.

Brendan Leipsic scored the token empty netter.

“They just attack,” said McGill, on what makes Portland so successful. “They have a tremendous amount of skill, they have a tremendous amount of speed and with speed and skill together, they just attack.

“They don’t sit back and obviously every team in the league would like to move the puck how they do and their transition game is tremendous, so that’s why they have success.”

Kootenay continued their road trip into Everett the next day and the Silvertips capitalized on a few mistakes to end the game with a 4-3 victory.

It was a shooting gallery in the first period, as both teams combined for 5 goals.

Ice defenceman Tanner Muth lit the goal lamp less than 20 seconds into the game, but the ‘Tips responded on a pair of goals from Tyler Sandu. Jon Martin brought the Ice back to even terms near the halfway mark of the first period.

However, 15 seconds later, disaster struck.

Everett banked the puck off the glass in their own end, which tricked down into the Kootenay zone, as ‘Tips forward Reid Petryk and Ice defence man Matt Thomas engaged in a footrace for it.

Skapski came out of his crease to play it, but Petryk managed to poke the puck away from the Ice goaltender’s stick, which slid into a gaping net.

The bad luck continued into the second period, when the puck took a weird bounce off the wall from an Everett dump-in that went right to the stick of Ty Mappin, who put the puck away while Skapski was expecting the puck to rim around the corner boards.

Czech import Jakub Prochazka extended his point streak to four games, scoring in the third period to bring the Ice within one goal of a tie, but the ‘Tips held on for the win.

Erik Benoit returned to the lineup after missing the last seven games with a lower body injury, trading the crutches for his skates and hockey stick. Brock Montgomery and Spencer Wand are still out with upper-body injuries; Montgomery is day-to-day, while Wand is expected to be another week or two.

ICE NOTES: Ice defenceman Spencer Wand is the 24th ranked skater as determined by the NHL Central Scouting’s fall preliminary rankings for the 2013 NHL Draft, which was released last week, while teammate Wyatt Hoflin was the sixth overall in goaltender standings. Ice rookie forward Collin Shirley has been named to Team West for the World U17 Challenge, which will be jointly hosted by Victoriaville and Drummondville in Quebec just after the Christmas break.