The Kootenay Ice opened their season in dramatic fashion, losing in the fifth round of a shootout against the Calgary Hitmen, with a final score of 3-2. The game almost ended only minutes earlier however, when the Hitmen scored in overtime and the teams left the Ice.
Calgary forward, Mark Kastelic, appeared to have buried the winner with 29.3 seconds to go, but the play was reversed several minutes later after the teams were already well on the way to their dressing rooms.
Ice goaltender, Payton Lee, complained to the referee immediately following the play, arguing that he had the puck covered and the goal should not have been allowed, but word that the goal was overturned came in long after Lee, his teammates, and a large amount of the Hitmen fans had already begun exiting the building.
The teams and fans quickly rushed back, and with time added back on the clock, the Ice managed to hold off the Hitmen for the rest of overtime, but couldn’t pull out a win in the shootout. Taylor Sanheim was the hero of the game for Calgary, scoring the winner and putting a cap on a game that was full of oddities from the very beginning.
Before the game even started, there was an approximately 25 minute delay, as the ice crew at Scotiabank Saddledome worked to resurface centre ice, which appeared to have been damaged by a carpet put down for a pregame dance performance, just before puck drop.
As their home opener, the Hitmen put on an impressive show. The team wore new black uniforms featuring a black Jason Voorhees mask on the crest and matching cardboard masks were given to the first 3,000 fans in attendance, creating an intimidating environment for the Ice. The game’s total attendance was 7,524.
Despite the delay, the game got off to a quick start as the extra time off the top seemed to allow the Hitmen to draw up a quick set play and cause Ice goaltender Payton Lee to make a difficult save in the opening seconds.
Calgary was in control in the early stages, but a great early shorthanded chance by Zak Zborosky gave the Ice hope. Zborosky picked up the puck after a Hitman giveaway but was robbed by goalie Cody Porter.
Zborosky didn’t have to wait long to fill the net though. A pair of penalties against the Hitmen within the span of 30 seconds, at the tail end of the opening frame, gave the Ice a golden 5-on-3 opportunity.
A play after Matt Alfaro put the puck into Porter’s chest, Zborosky buried a chance off a feed from Alfaro, giving the Ice a 1-0 lead with 36 seconds remaining in the first period.
The Ice weren’t on top for long though, and four minutes into the second period Taylor Sanheim took a shot on the powerplay that found it’s way past four sprawling Kootenay Ice players, trying to make a block. The puck found itself on the stick of Murphy Stratton, who chipped the puck past Lee and tied the game.
With the game now even, Sandheim further entertained the crowd by agreeing to a fight with Ice forward Max Patterson, who took Sandheim to the ground with two hard rights. Both were assessed five minute penalties, and each got an additional two on top of that — Sandheim for roughing and Patterson for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Near the end of the second period, the Ice were once again gifted with a 5-on-3 powerplay — thanks to interference from Sanheim and high sticking from Ty Prefontaine — but were unable to convert. Momentum was on their side in the last minute, however, and rookie Tanner Sidaway grabbed an unassisted marker at 19:31 for his first WHL goal.
Calgary defenceman, Michael Zipp, stormed towards the Ice net to close out the period, but a fortunate post sent Kootenay into the third with a 2-1 lead.
However, just like in the second, it was short-lived. Under a minute and a half into the final frame, Tyler Mrkonjic knocked in a goal with assists from teammates Tristan Nielson and Andrei Grishakov. The Hitmen then enjoyed sustained pressure on the powerplay from successive hooking calls against Sidaway and Noah Philp.
In the second half of the period, impressive play from Zak Zborosky and Tanner Sidaway created a number of great chances for the Ice, with Sidaway coming extremely close to putting his team back in front around the ten minute mark.
Regulation time ended with both teams locked at two goals a piece setting up the dramatic double Hitmen win, which allowed the rare opportunity for a mascot to come onto the Ice and celebrate twice during a game.
In the five rounds of the shootout, only Luke Philp was able to score for the Ice, while Alfaro, Zborosky, Vince Loschiavo and Cale Fleury all failed to beat Porter, who was named the first star of the game.
While the Ice will be disappointed with their failure to start the year on a winning note, they still earned one point in the standings and had a lot of promising play from both their new and returning players.
The Ice will play the Hitmen again tomorrow (September 24), in their home opener, which goes at 7 p.m. at Western Financial Place.
Notes: Scratches for the Ice included Declan Walter (G), Sam Huston (D), Reed Morison (F), Bobby Russell (D), Fedor Rudakov (D), Shane Allan (F), Jared Legien (F), Eli Lieffers (F) … The Hitmen scratched Nik Amundrud (G) and Jakob LaPointe (D) and were also without the service of many players currently at NHL training camps including: Jake Bean (Carolina Hurricanes), Beck Malenstyn (Washington Capitals), Jakob Stukel (Vancouver Canucks), Carsen Twarynski (Philadelphia Flyers), Matteo Gennaro (Winnipeg Jets), Jordy Stallard (Jets) and Aaron Hyman (Calgary Flames).
Friday, September 23
Kootenay Ice 2 at Calgary Hitmen 3
1. KTN – Z. Zborosky (1) (M. Alfaro), 19:23 (PP)
2. CGY – M. Stratton (1) (T. Sandheim, M. Zipp), 3:58 (PP)
3. KTN – Sidaway (1) 19:31
4. CGY – T. Mrkonjic (1) (Nielson, Grishakov), 1:18
KTN- M. Alfaro NG
CGY – T. Mrkonjic NG
KTN- L. Philp G
CGY- A. Grishakov G
KTN – Z. Zborosky NG
CGY – V. Yeryomenko NG
KTN- V. Loschiavo NG
CGY – L. Cullen NG
KTN- C. Fleury NG
CGY – T. Sanheim G
Shots 1 2 3 4 T
Kootenay Ice 8-11-10-1-0-30
Calgary Hitmen 4-8-10-5-1-28
Goaltenders Record Saves SV%
KTN – Payton Lee 0-0-0-1 25/27 0.926
CGY- Cody Porter 1-0-0-0 28/30 0.933
1. Cody Porter – CGY