Prior to the opening puck drop on Wednesday night, Alec Baer was recognized as the Kootenay Ice’s player of the month.
He received a nice ovation.
A couple of hours later, he cut across the Prince Albert Raiders crease and scored an overtime goal.
The building exploded.
“I got some separation on the wall and I found that the defenceman one-on-one with me [was] kind of flat footed, so I took advantage of him,” Baer said of his heroics. “Then the goalie came out at me, so I decided to push it wide and was able to slide it in.”
The moment of pure jubilee was one that the crowd at Western Financial Place had been waiting for since Saturday, when the team was shutout by the Lethbridge Hurricanes despite having 47 shots.
Despite once again facing a tall, talented goaltender, the Ice managed to reverse their frustrating loss to the ‘Canes and score four times for the Cranbrook faithful.
“[Ian Scott] is as big [of a netminder] as we’ve seen and according to the scouting report, he’s as good as there is in the league,” said Ice head coach James Patrick after the game. “[We knew that the] only way to [beat him] was to get in front of his eyes while we’re shooting or to just crash the net.
“There was a lot of excitement around their net from really driving [towards it] and I thought our guys did a really good job with that.”
In the first period, the game did not get off to the exact start that the Ice were hoping for. Although the team played well, they earned three penalties and tampered with their own rhythm.
“I really liked our first period [but] all our penalties were [because we weren’t] using our feet for backchecking [and] we were trying to hook,” Patrick said. “[They were] needless penalties and then that takes some of your players out of the game.
“[Peyton] Krebs doesn’t get on and Alec Baer doesn’t get on for not only the 6 minutes, but before and after, [so] it messes up the ice time.”
While the coach was not as happy with his team’s second frame, after a scoreless opening 20 minutes, it was at that point that the floodgates opened for the Ice’s offence.
Cam Hausinger scored the game’s first goal just a minute and a half in, banging home a rebound with a gutsy crash to the net play.
Ten minutes later, the Ice ended a three game power play drought, as defenceman Jonathan Smart picked up a loose puck in front of the net and wired it past Scott.
While Sean Montgomery got the Raiders on the board a minute later, as he put one past Bailey Brkin from the slot, Vince Loschiavo restored the two-goal lead with another rebound effort assisted by Hausinger.
With just over a minute left before the second intermission, however, Spencer Moe found himself very alone with time and space and sent the Ice to the locker room with a twinge of panic.
“We started getting on the wrong side of the puck [in the second] and we started cheating,” Patrick said. “Giving up a goal in the last minute of the period is not a good thing and we had a few different guys making mistakes, young players making mistakes.
“It’s frustrating, but that’s how they learn.”
While the Ice appeared to get a huge break near the midway point of the third period, receiving a four minute power play, it ended up being devastating. Scoring on a shorthanded rush, Parker Kelly beat Brkin high glove side.
Taking the game to overtime, the two teams went all out for the three-on-three session. Nearly scoring ten seconds in, Kootenay gave up a big chance to the Raiders but then soon won thanks to Baer’s impressive goal.
“That looked like a typical overtime, where one team’s got a great chance and the other team comes down with a great chance [of their own],” Patrick said. “[Then] Alec just came up with a high end play for us.”
With the win, the Ice (12-14-1-0) recaptured second place in the Central Division as they prepare for a five-game road trip across B.C. starting on Saturday in Kelowna.
According to Baer, the positive energy of the win over the Raiders is very important.
“I think everyone is more upbeat in the room and on the bus [so] it’s very good momentum for all these road games,” he said. “There are a couple of good teams [we’ll be playing] and if we can come out and play the way we did today, we should be okay.”
The Ice’s next home game isn’t until Saturday, December 16 when they host the Calgary Hitmen for Teddy Bear Toss night.