Baby, we were born to run.
At least, that’s what one might think of the Calgary Hitmen and Kootenay Ice through three games this season. The two clubs have combined to score 34 goals in three contests thus far, including 24 tallies in two meetings at Western Financial Place.
Friday night was no exception to the trend, as Luke Philp led the Ice to a jaw-dropping 7-6 overtime victory.
The Central Division rivals exchanged the lead three times before the 19-year-old pivot ended the indecision with a quick snapshot that beat Hitmen goaltender Evan Johnson.
“The coaches aren’t too happy with that, but sometimes it’s just the way the game goes,” Philp said in regards to the back-and-forth affair. “Lots of times guys are looking for offense and if the [defenceman] is pinching up or you miss the net wide, it creates offense the other way. There’s no real explanation for the way it went tonight, but I guess we’ll take the two points.”
Philp’s game-winner came with a mere 15 seconds left in extra time, capping a standout four-point performance (2G, 2A) for the native of Canmore, Alta.
For Philp and the Ice, the opportunity to win their fourth consecutive game may have never arisen if not for the late heroics of Tim Bozon.
Trailing 6-5 in the third period, the Ice got caught in a mix up at the bench. As goaltender Wyatt Hoflin headed off for the extra attacker, play turned back towards Kootenay territory. Hoflin retreated and the Ice were caught with too many skaters, putting them down a man with 2:11 to play.
Gaining possession shortly after the ensuing face-off, Hoflin headed back to the bench to even things at five skaters a side.
Bozon, known for his nose around the net, sniffed out an opportunity low in the slot. After Johnson stretched out to make a miraculous save on the 20-year-old, the puck came back to the native of Valbonne, France, at the side of the net, where he made good on his second try, knotting the game 6-6 with 1:08 to play.
“I was a little bit frustrated after the second period and I said, coming into the third, I have to step up my game and do things a little bit better,” Bozon said Friday night. “That’s what I did. I stepped up and got some good luck to score that goal to feel a little bit better.”
Despite the overall disappointment in his performance, the Montreal Canadiens third-round pick (64th overall, 2012) ended the evening with two points (1G, 1A).
With 13 goals on the board by the end of the night, almost all the big name NHL prospects on both sides found their way to the scoresheet Friday.
Jake Virtanen (Vancouver Canucks), Jaedon Descheneau (St. Louis Blues), Chase Lang (Minnesota Wild), Adam Tambellini (New York Rangers), Radel Fazleev (Philadelphia Flyers) and Zak Zborosky (2015 NHL Central Scouting watch list) all tallied throughout the game.
“In the first period, we came out a little bit flat, but we got going after that,” Zborosky said. “It was a wild one, a couple goals back and forth. It was a fun game to play.”
Though he didn’t send a puck to the back of the net, Buffalo Sabres prospect Sam Reinhart quietly turned in a four-assist performance, including the primary helper on Bozon’s game-tying tally and Philp’s overtime winner.
Hitmen starter Mack Shields was victimized three times on 20 shots before being yanked in the second period. Evan Johnson came on in relief, making 13 stops on 17 saves.
For the Ice, Wyatt Hoflin earned his seventh win of the season, turning aside 32 of the 38 shots he faced.
The triumph extends the Kootenay Ice win streak to four games. Coupled with the Lethbridge Hurricanes’ 4-1 loss to the Red Deer Rebels, the Ice leapt the Hurricanes in the Central Division standings Friday night.
The four-game win streak, which began on home ice in a 6-5 overtime victory against the Hurricanes Nov. 1, will be put on the line Saturday night as Kootenay travels east to face Lethbridge (5-11-3-1) at the Enmax Centre.
“We’ve got things together here in the last four games,” Philp said. “It’s nice. We’re never giving up on games when we get down.
“Following the system the way it’s meant to be played is working for us right now.”
Despite holding a 6-4-0-0 record on home ice, the Ice are a miserable 1-9-0-0 away from Western Financial Place to this point in the campaign.
“We have confidence now,” Bozon added. “We have a good group of guys. If you look at our last three wins, they’re all one-goal wins…That shows a lot of character. It’s not that we’re winning games by three or four goals. It shows a lot of character and that’s always good.
“We know if we want to move up in the standings, we have to win some road games. That’s really important and we start [Saturday in Lethbridge].”
Notes: The last time the Ice hosted the Hitmen Oct. 24, the visitors approached the double-digit mark in a 9-2 victory. Back in Calgary Oct. 4, the Hitmen staged a come-from-behind effort to get past the Ice 6-4…The Kootenay Ice skated one player short Friday night as F Kyle O’Connor (lower body, one to two weeks) and F Levi Cable (lower body, two to three weeks) were injured in practice late this week…O’Connor and Cable joined F Jon Martin (upper body, one to two weeks) and D Tanner Faith (upper body, two to four weeks) on the injured list…