In sports, the mantra goes that any given team can win on any given night.
That was the case on Tuesday night, as the Ice surrendered an early lead to fall 5-4 in a shootout against the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
The ‘Canes, limping into Western Financial Place with the worst record in the CHL, forced a shootout after refusing to lay down and quit when facing an early deficit in the first period.
Reid Duke was the shootout hero for the ‘Canes, beating Kootenay Ice goaltender Mackenzie Skapski through the five-hole in the third round to give Lethbridge their sixth win in the last 38 games.
For ‘Canes assistant coach Brad Lukowich, it was his first WHL victory in his hometown.
“We got off to a slow start, obviously,” said Lukowich, a local product and former NHLer who has transitioned into coaching. “That’s kind of the way we’ve been. We gotta focus on our starts—we give everybody a head start and we’re always battling back, but you gotta give our guys credit, they didn’t fold.”
For Kootenay, it was a game of missed opportunities, according to assistant coach Jay Henderson.
“We gave away the game tonight. I didn’t like the way we played, we had way to many turnovers” Henderson said, who is taking charge of the team with bench boss Ryan McGill on staff with Team Canada at the World Junior Championships.
“…We played right into their cards and our biggest thing was we wanted our guys to be focused on here and not elsewhere looking forward to holidays.
“We asked for three periods, we got the first period, which I thought was OK, but after that, we gave it away.”
Kootenay got offence on a pair of goals from Luke Philp, while Tim Bozon and Kyle O’Connor lit the goal lamp as well. Lethbridge replied with Duke, Riley Sheen, Kolten Olynek, and Giorgio Estephan.
Wyatt Hoflin initially got the start, but surrendered three goals in 10 shots before Skapski went in for relief, turning away 23 pucks. Corbin Boes picked up the win for Lethbridge with 31 saves.
Less than three minutes into the game, Kootenay doubled up on Lethbridge on goals from Philp and O’Connor. With the ‘Canes looking dazed and unorganized, head coach Drake Berehowsky called a important time-out.
“It was a well-timed time-out by Drake, brought the guys in, settled them down, got them back to business and then we went out and clawed our way back in,” said Lukowich.
Sheen beat Hoflin above the glove in the top right corner while entering the zone, but Philp restored the two-goal Ice lead less than 30 seconds later.
Olynek took out the trash in front of the crease and Duke cut in to the middle on a powerplay and scored to even it up at 3-3 after 20 minutes.
Bozon was turned away by the post on a shot, but eventually got his goal late in the middle frame to give the Ice a one-goal lead. Kootenay also had four straight powerplays over that time—one of which was a two-man advantage for 52 seconds.
However, they couldn’t score.
“Special teams can win and lose you games, and I thought we were fortunate to get one point tonight,” said Henderson.
Estephan knotted the game back up at the halfway mark of the final period off a quick shot during an offensive zone face-off, which eventually forced overtime.
Landon Cross had the most dangerous-looking chance for the Ice when he pinched into the slot from the blue line and swung at a loose puck, but Boes made the save.
Philp, Bozon and Jaedon Descheneau were all turned away by Bozon in the shootout, while Skapski made saves on Sheen and Tyler Wong before being beat by Duke.
Again, the Ice had a short bench with injuries to Jagger Dirk, Ryan Chynoweth, Tanner Faith, and Rinat Valiev, while Sam Reinhart is away at the World Juniors.
NOTES: Former Lethbridge Hurricanes head coach Mike Dyck was on the bench with Henderson, and has been with the team for the last three games. Dyck was hired earlier this year to assist Henderson during McGill’s absence at the World Junior tournament. Kimberley native Coy Prevost made his WHL debut in Saskatoon with the Blades on Tuesday night. Prevost was called up from the Kootenay Ice in the B.C. Major Midget League.