The Kootenay Ice ran into a wall on Friday night.
A Finnish wall, to be exact, as Swift Current Broncos import Eetu Laurikainen faced 26 shots in the first period alone, while the offence in front of him scored five times in a 5-2 rout of the hometown team at Western Financial Place.
The Ice also suffered a blow to the roster as captain Drew Czerwonka, who was a healthy scratch, announced his retirement from hockey to management on Thursday evening.
Jon Martin and Levi Cable supplied the goals for the Ice, while Levi Bews, Chance Lund, Reese Scarlett, Dillon Heatherington and Colby Cave answered for the Broncos.
Ice goaltender Mackenzie Skapski made 20 saves, while Laurikainen stopped 39 shots by the end of the game.
The Broncos converted twice in three opportunities on the power play, while Kootenay made good one one man-advantage in seven chances.
Though the Ice ended with a loss, they struck first 2:15 into the first period, when Martin scored his second goal of the season.
Bews tied it up two minutes later, banging the puck in from the side of the net.
Lund took the lead by getting a tip on a shot from defenceman Richard Nedomlel, while Reese Scarlett added to the scoresheet a couple minutes later, finishing on a tic-tac-toe play.
The Broncos then began a steady march to the penalty box, as the Ice went on power plays for most of the rest of the period, including a five-on-three that lasted 57 seconds and another one that went for 1:07.
The Ice spent most of that time trying to get shots on Laurikainen, but the Finnish import was solid in the crease, while his penalty killers closed shooting lanes and forced Kootenay to move the puck around the perimeter.
“When you get that many opportunities at the start of the game, at first it helps all your guys get into the game, they get a feel for the puck, but when you don’t score, you got to learn to battle through that,” said Ice forward Sam Reinhart. “Their goalie played great, and we didn’t really learn throughout the game, we played into his strengths, he has a great glove hand and it was tough to get away from that and we kept shooting there.”
The first period performance, especially the effort from Laurikainen, is what won the game for the Broncos, according to captain Adam Lowry.
“It started with pretty good goaltending in the first. I know we took some untimely penalties…and Eetu came up huge,” said Lowry. “There were a couple backdoor plays where he slid across and was able to get his toe and his glove on and I think it gave us some confidence.”
“The way we bounced back after that first goal was huge for us.”
The Broncos got a lucky goal in the second period, when Heatherington fired the puck from the corner that deflected off an Ice defenceman and into the net.
Cable responded for Kootenay on the club’s only power play goal, taking a puck that rebounded off the back boards and stuffing it into the net near the halfway mark of the period.
Jagger Dirk took a puck to the face and had to leave for the dressing room, but the veteran Ice defenceman returned the bench a few minutes later.
Cave scored the final marker for Swift Current in the third period, deflecting a cross-ice pass top corner over Skapski’s glove.
It’s the fourth loss in a row for the Ice, which sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. The team has the week off before hosting the Saskatoon Blades in the first of a triple-header to start the next weekend.