Ice split weekend, halt losing skid in Calgary

Kootenay snaps eight-game losing streak on the road, shutting out the Hitmen 4-0.

Moose Jaw Warriors’ goaltender Justin Paulic scrambles to clear the puck as Kootenay Ice forward Zach McPhee lurks outside the crease during WHL action at Western Financial Place on Saturday evening.

A subdued Brock Montgomery wandered the halls in the bowels of Western Financial Place following Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Moose Jaw Warriors.

“I’d rather not, if that’s okay,” he said, when asked if he was up for a post-game interview.

Can’t blame him—what’s there to say after his team’s seventh straight loss on home ice?

However, the veteran forward vented his frustration two days later, scoring his first career hat trick against the Hitmen as the Kootenay Ice shut out the opposition 4-0 on Monday evening in Calgary—a team at the top of the Eastern Conference.

That win snaps Kootenay’s eight-game losing skid, which has plagued the club over the last three weeks.

“It’s a big win for our team in a really big building—a first place in the conference team,” said Ice head coach Ryan McGill.

The Ice were on the road to the win less than 20 seconds into the game, when Montgomery capitalized off a rebound for his first goal of the night.

Thirteen minutes later, Montgomery scored again on the powerplay and Kootenay kept the 2-0 lead for the rest of the frame.

The Ice shut down the Hitmen in the second period, limiting Calgary to only three shots, while Kootenay pasted 11 pucks on Mack Shields in a scoreless 20 minutes. Kootenay Ice goaltender Mackenzie Skapski preserved the lead by coming up with a big save while killing a penalty at the end of the frame.

“I thought we did a good job of not giving them a lot of shots in the opening period, and Mackenzie had to make a key save with about 10 seconds left in the second period on the penalty kill that really set us up for the third period,” said McGill.

“We kept it 2-0 instead of making it 2-1 going into the intermission.”

Spencer Wand and Kenton Helgesen got physical, dropping the gloves for a fight. Mike Simpson also found himself in a bout with Spencer Humphries, after the Kootenay defenceman laid a big body check on former Iceman Brendan Hurley.

Montgomery completed his hat trick roughly seven minutes into the final frame, and Zach McPhee potted the empty-netter when the Hitmen desperately pulled Shields with over two minutes to go.

The Ice found their groove on the power play, capitalizing twice after struggling to find the back of the net on the man-advantage over the last eight games.

“When you direct more pucks to the net, good things happen,” said McGill, pointing to Montgomery’s second goal, which was scored on a five-on-three powerplay.

“Sam [Reinhart] made a helluva pass to Montgomery in front for the tap in, so it was a real, real high skill play.”

Skapksi earned his second career shutout, as he stopped 15 shots, while the Ice doubled up on Shields, putting 30 pucks on Calgary’s net.

Their performance on Monday evening was a far cry from Saturday against Moose Jaw.

The Warriors earned the win with a 3-0 lead after the opening frame, two goals of which were scored on the man-advantage on the exact same play.

Justin Kirsch notched a goal after taking a back door pass eight minutes into the game, while Joel Edmundson found the back of the net just over a minute later on the same kind of play.

Twenty seconds after Edmundson’s goal, Warriors’ left-winger Brandon Potomak found the back of the net.

Moose Jaw rode their lead until roughly halfway through the second period, when  Levi Cable fed Zach McPhee from behind the net, who roofed the puck top corner to put the Ice on the board.

But Moose Jaw responded 37 seconds later, when Kirk Johnson took advantage of a puck that squirted out at the top of the face-off circle, blasting a slap shot past Skapski.

The Ice goaltender was recalled to the bench after that, as Wyatt Hoflin played the remaining 30 minutes. Skapksi made 10 saves in 14 shots, while Hoflin turned away all nine pucks he faced.

In the other end, Justin Paulic made 25 saves for the Warriors.

The Ice had chances—Sam Reinhart rang a shot off the post in the middle frame, and Paulic robbed Jaedon Descheneau on an odd-man shorthanded rush.

Paulic again kept his team in it, stoning Montgomery on a third-period breakaway.

Jeff Hubic and Edmundson dropped the gloves late in the first period, as the Ice forward tried to spark his team.

Tanner Muth also got into some fisticuffs with Jordan Wyton, as the Ice defenceman decided to take justice into his own hands when the Warriors forward checked him from behind.