A win is a win — it might not have been pretty, but the Kootenay Ice found a way to do just that Friday night, as they claimed a 3-2 shootout victory over the Spokane Chiefs in WHL action at Western Financial Place.
“We were not good for the first two periods, there’s no question about it,” said Luke Pierce, head coach of the Kootenay Ice, Friday night. “We didn’t deserve to be in the game. Declan [Hobbs] kept us in there. But finding a way — the third period, we were better, the last five minutes [of regulation] we were real good and obviously had a lot of energy in overtime.”
It was nearly 10 p.m. (Mountain) by the time Friday’s back-and-forth affair between the Ice and Chiefs came to a close, but when it finally ended, Hobbs’ performance was undoubtedly the most vital to the outcome as he turned away 40 pucks and two more in the shootout to claim his second victory of the campaign.
“Any two points is two points,” Hobbs said Friday. “It was good. But we’ve got to work to get another [win] tomorrow.
“I just kept a level head throughout the entire game, especially with the ice maintenance before the third period started — it was tough to stay in it. But you’ve got to mentally focus and battle through that.”
Overtime didn’t come to fruition without some late-game drama.
Before the third period began in what was a 1-1 hockey game, there was a 20-minute delay coming out of the second intermission as rink crews worked to patch up a problematic patch of ice behind the Chiefs net.
After coming back to the bench, the two teams were ushered back to their dressing rooms, before returning to the benches once again only to sit for a long stretch. Eventually play got under way, but not before nearly 20 minutes had passed.
“In the intermission we finally started to find some energy somehow and talked about putting the first 40 [minutes] behind us, let’s be better, we still have a chance to win a game,” Pierce said. “Guys were jumping in the hall and getting ready, then you go out and nothing happens for 20 minutes. It’s hard. But both teams were dealing with the same thing.”
Midway through the period Chiefs forward Hudson Elynuik gave his club its first lead of the night, depositing a power-play goal past Hobbs fora 2-1 lead with 6:30 to go in regulation.
Trailing 2-1 with 32.1 seconds remaining and an offensive-zone face-off coming to the glove side of Chiefs goaltender Tyson Verhelst, Pierce called timeout to draw up a play.
From there, things didn’t go exactly to plan, but with time winding down, the puck came to Ice captain Tanner Lishchynsky at the point and he unleashed a booming shot that went top shelf past Verhelst to tie the game with only three seconds remaining.
“We lost the draw and there was as big scrum, I just sat out front,” Lishchynsky said, recounting the sequence following Friday’s victory. “I luckily got the puck and shot it in.
“It felt great. I know how hard everyone was working to try and get that goal for us.”
Three-on-three overtime provided its share of excitement as the two clubs exchanged opportunities.
The save of the extra period most definitely belonged to Hobbs, who stoned Chiefs veteran Markson Bechtold with a critical left shoulder save off an odd-man rush.
No one found the back of the net in overtime, sending the game to the shootout — a first for the Kootenay Ice in the 2015-16 campaign.
First, Chiefs rookie Jaret Anderson-Dolan hit the post behind Hobbs. Then Matt Alfaro swung wide right before cutting in and deking past Verhelst to give the Ice the opening edge in the skills competition.
After Dominic Zwerger missed the net wide on the second attempt for the Chiefs, Jesse Zaharichuk — fresh off sitting out Wednesday’s loss to Tri-City after violating curfew — had a shot at redemption.
The shifty winger made no mistake, going bar down over the shoulder of Verhelst to clinch the shootout and a 3-2 victory.
“Everyone is happy once you’re winning, everything is always better,” Lishchynsky said. “We’ve been working on a lot of our systems stuff. That is finally paying off. Guys are listening, we’re all working hard and working together. We’re playing as a team now and it’s working out good.”
A penalty-filled opening 20 minutes saw Ice winger River Beattie convert on his team’s third advantage of the period, banging a rebound past Verhelst for a 1-0 lead only 5:27 into the festivities.
The sequence began after Alfaro found Zak Zborosky at the point. With no optimal pass, the 19-year-old Regina native sent a long shot in that gave Verhelst some trouble and Beattie pounced on the rebound.
Chiefs rookie Hayden Ostir knotted the game less than seven minutes later, battling for a loose puck in Ice territory, before spinning and firing a high shot past the glove of Hobbs to tie the game 1-1 at the 12:12 mark.
The tying tally went into the books as the first-career WHL goal for the 16-year-old native of Winnipeg.
The opening 20 minutes of play proved busy for Hobbs as the Chiefs sent 20 pucks in on the rookie netminder. At the other end Verhelst faced 10 shots.
After a grand total of five power-play opportunities during the first period — three for Kootenay, two for Spokane — the two teams and the officials settled in. At the end of the night, the Ice went 1-for-5 with the man advantage, while the Chiefs were 1-for-4.
While Hobbs made 40 saves on the 42 shots he faced, Verhelst turned aside 27 of 29 pucks sent his way, but was 0-for-2 in the shootout.
The Ice (10-40-4-0) and Chiefs (26-21-4-3) will face one another again Saturday evening (8 p.m. Mountain) at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena.
Notes: Ice AP Tanner Sidaway made his WHL debut Friday night, skating on the team’s fourth line alongside C Shane Allan and RW Austin Gray… The Ice went without RW Jaedon Descheneau (shoulder), D Ryan Pouliot, C Noah Philp and LW Austin Wellsby (upper body)… Announced attendance Friday in Cranbrook was 1,937…