For the first time this season, the Kootenay Ice entered the third period with a lead. Despite having a two-goal advantage with 20 minutes to play, the Ice coughed up four third-period goals, losing to the Calgary Hitmen 6-4 Saturday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
“We have a team here that has a really hard time with following directions,” said Ice head coach Ryan McGill over the phone following the loss. “You have to look no further than the coach…Obviously our teaching methods aren’t correct and we’re going to have to figure out a way to get [the players] to understand that if they follow the game plan they will have success.”
The loss drops the Ice (2-3-0-0) below .500 once again, while the Hitmen (3-2-0-1) move above .500 for the first time this season.
Hitmen forwards Adam Tambellini and Ben Thomas started the third-period onslaught with two bank-shot goals that found the back of the net after careening off Ice defenders. Thomas’s marker came short-handed and knotted the game 4-4, swinging all momentum in favour of the hosts.
Less than 2:30 after Thomas’s tying goal, forward Radel Fazleev scored the eventual game-winner to give Calgary a 5-4 lead. Chase Lang added an insurance marker 1:15 later and the Hitmen suffocated the Ice for the remainder of the period.
The loss stings as the Ice held a 4-1 lead midway through the second period.
“When you have a 4-1 lead in this league, you have to make sure you play with that lead properly,” McGill said. “You have to make sure your leadership group is onboard. Clearly right now, the leadership group isn’t on board.”
Two goals from veteran forward Luke Philp powered the visitors out in front in the second period, while Vince Loschiavo and Jaedon Descheneau scored back-to-back tallies 28 seconds apart in the first period to give Kootenay its initial 2-1 edge.
Loschiavo’s tally was the first of his young WHL career.
Saturday night saw the Ice surrender another big shot total, with goaltender Wyatt Hoflin seeing 39 pucks by the time the final buzzer rang.
“We turn pucks over in the neutral zone because we try to play too much one-on-one hockey,” McGill said of the high shot count. “Our players are so highly skilled and so good that we try to beat people one-on-one and it [results in] a turnover going back in towards our net.”
At the other end of the rink, the Ice chased Mack Shields from the Calgary cage after the starter gave up four goals on 14 shots to start the game. Rookie Evan Johnson stepped in and turned aside all 16 of the shots he faced to earn the come-from-behind victory.
After going 0-for-3 on the power play against Spokane Friday, the Ice were a more collected group with the man advantage Saturday, going 2-for-6 against the Hitmen. Both of Philp’s second-period efforts game with the extra man.
The Hitmen were 1-for-3 on the power play after defenceman Kenton Helgeson opened the scoring with the man advantage 5:54 into the first period.
The Ice continue on the road later this week, facing three games in three nights throughout Saskatchewan beginning Wednesday, Oct. 8 in Regina.
Next action for the Hitmen comes Friday, Oct. 10 when they play host to the Victoria Royals.
Notes: Ice forward Vince Loschiavo was inserted into the lineup Saturday in place of fellow rookie Jared Legien, who sat after dressing Friday at home…D Rinat Valiev missed his fifth game of the season due to a lower-body injury…F Jon Martin left the game with an upper-body injury and did not return. According to McGill, Martin will be listed as day-to-day…