Ben Betker made sure his hometown debut against the Kootenay Ice on Tuesday night was a memorable one.
Less than a minute into the game, the Everett Silvertips defenceman threw the puck on net, which was batted out of midair by teammate Dawson Leedahl for a early lead.
“Unless I scored, no, I couldn’t have scripted that one any better,” laughed Betker.
Betker, a Cranbrook native, picked up another assist later in the game as Everett built on their lead and edged out a 3-2 victory.
Joshua Winquist and Kohl Bauml also scored for Everett, while Austin Vetterl and Luke Philp responded for the Ice.
Wyatt Hoflin made 19 saves for the Ice, while Austin Lotz turned away 31 shots for the win.
On Kootenay’s part, it was a winnable game that slipped out of their fingers, as they outshot Everett 33-22. However, Lotz was the difference maker for the ‘Tips, as the Ice didn’t put enough pressure on him.
“The two goals we scored, we got guys going to the net hard,” said Ice forward Zach McPhee. “…That’s what we had to do for 60 minutes and we didn’t tonight.”
For McPhee and Ryan Chynoweth, it was a meeting that held significant meaning, going up against a former team.
“It’s always good to go up against a former team, but we didn’t get the W and that’s the part that we should’ve had tonight,” added McPhee.
After Leedahl’s opening goal, Kootenay failed to capitalize on an early powerplay, but Austin Vetterl eventually knotted it up, tucking in the puck at the side of the net off a rebound from the point.
With Kootenay on the penalty kill, Josh Winquist threaded through the defence and headed in on Hoflin all alone, but lost control of the puck. The play headed back up the ice and Austin Lotz went out of his crease to play the puck, but scrambled and had to make a diving save after a turnover in Everett’s zone.
It took only 12 seconds for the Silvertips to strike in the second period, as Winquist made it 2-1, with Betker picking up his second apple of the night.
“Those kinds of things, especially at home, just can’t happen,” said McPhee, regarding Everett’s two quick goals.
Hubic ran over Michael Zipp at the Everett blue line and Leedahl stepped up for a spirited scrap. Leedahl earned some additional penalty minutes for an instigator and 10 minute misconduct.
Late in the middle frame, Philp took a weak goaltender interference penalty after being shoved into Lotz, and the Silvertips capitalized when Bauml weaved into the slot and roofed a shot past Hoflin.
Heading into the latter half of the third period, Reinhart hit a streaking Philp in the corner with a pass, who cut in front of the net and stuffed the puck past Lotz to make it a one-goal game.
Kootenay pulled Hoflin for a sixth attacker but couldn’t find the equalizer in a confusing finish. In Everett territory, the Silvertips were singled out for a delayed penalty, but the puck slipped across the blue line, putting Kootenay offside. Neither side wanted to touch the puck as the seconds ticked down.
A Kootenay stick finally made contact a few seconds before the buzzer went, and the officials called the game, before reversing the decision for a face-off in Everett’s zone for two seconds.
Despite a quick trigger from Rinat Valiev, who put a shot on net, Bauml made the block just before the buzzer ended the contest for good.
“We got outplayed for, I’d say, three quarters of the game,” said McPhee. “We didn’t start well and it kind of carried on throughout the second and third period. It wasn’t an overall great effort tonight.”
Kootenay was stymied on all four powerplay chances, while the ‘Tips notched a goal in three opportunities with the man-advantage.
“Our goal was to get pucks to the net quick,” said McPhee. “They have a good penalty kill and we’re just trying to get traffic to their goalie and get pucks there quick, but we didn’t get full possession like we should’ve off the bat, and just a lack of effort on our part for some of the powerplays we had.
“We had a couple good chances there, but we need to capitalize.”
The loss drops Kootenay down to eighth in the Eastern Conference, tied up at 26 points with the Regina Pats and the Brandon Wheat Kings, however, both have a game in hand against the Ice.
It’s a quick turnaround for Kootenay, as they face the Rebels on Wednesday evening in Red Deer. The team was planning on hitting the road right after the tilt against Everett, but road conditions may force them to make the trip early Wednesday.