When a goaltender backstops his club to a shutout victory, it usually goes without saying he was the better of the two guardians in the game.
While Carter Hart made 16 stops to guide the Everett Silvertips (11-5-0-1) to a 2-0 victory, rookie goaltender Declan Hobbs stole the show as he did everything in his power to give the Kootenay Ice (4-16-2-0) an opportunity to halt a three-game losing streak Tuesday night against the Everett Silvertips.
“Declan Hobbs gave us a chance,” said Luke Pierce, head coach of the Kootenay Ice, Tuesday night. “Our goalies have been so good.
“That’s a good hockey club [Everett] and they had four power plays in the first period.
“It’s not easy for a goalie to get in there and get peppered like that. But he understands what we’re trying to do as a team. He knows where he needs to look to be at.
“If we had a whole bunch of guys up front and in our ‘D’ core who had his work ethic, I think we’d be in a different position at this point.”
Hobbs, 17, turned aside 39 of the 41 shots directed his way, including all 18 in the first 20 minutes of play.
“Honestly, for me, I’d rather have a lot of shots in the first period than having no shots,” Hobbs said Tuesday. “I get a better feel for the puck. It gives me a better feel for the rest of the game. I didn’t mind it at all. Once I made the first few saves in the first period, I sort of got in my own groove and did what I could.”
Hobbs was in a groove, without a doubt. By the time the final buzzer sounded, the only thing the Saskatoon product didn’t do was score a goal — something he most definitely cannot be blamed for.
Skating in their first of four Central Division road games, the Silvertips came out firing in the first period, helped largely in part by four man advantages as Cale Fleury, Roman Dymacek and Tanner Lishchynsky — on two separate occasions — found their way to the sin bin.
While Hobbs was the busiest and arguably the best goaltender throughout, Hart’s shutout was certainly earned as the two netminders went save for save for much of the night.
Named WHL Goaltender of the Week on Monday, Hart showed why late in the first period.
Hit with a long lead pass from Fleury, Dymacek broke down the left side before flashing a quick-release shot for the home team’s first good scoring chance of the night. Calmly, Hart was there to negate the opportunity and the two teams headed into the dressing room scoreless.
Early in the middle period, Ice forward Shane Allan broke in 2-on-1 with Jared Legien for another great Kootenay scoring opportunity.
Legien, 17, got off a quick one-timer that Hart managed to get cross-crease on to preserve the scoreless affair.
With time winding down in the second period, it looked as though both squads might be headed to the final 20 minutes of regulation with goose eggs on both sides of the scoreboard until Matt Alfaro drew a questionable high-sticking penalty with 5:10 to go.
Short-handed for the fifth time, Hobbs made a calm blocker stop on Silvertips forward Graham Millar halfway through the Everett power play.
Moments later, Austrian import Dario Winkler snapped a quick shot from on top of the circle. After ricocheting off Hobbs, the post and back off the Ice goaltender, the biscuit found a way into the basket, trickling across the goal line for a 1-0 Silvertips lead after 40 minutes.
Like on so many other occasions this season, the Kootenay Ice found themselves heading into the third period down but not out — completely within reach of a win.
But like on so many others before it, victory was not in the cards for the Ice Tuesday night.
The stingy Silvertips shut things down in the defensive zone during the third period, outshooting the host Ice 10-4 over the final 20 minutes of play.
Lishchynsky made his third trip to the penalty box with seven minutes remaining in the third period and Silvertips captain Dawson Leedahl capitalized to put the visitors ahead 2-0.
When the final buzzer sounded, the Silvertips win boiled down to two things: a 2-for-6 conversion rate on the man advantage and an impenetrable wall named Hart, that at the end of the night, the Ice simply did not test enough.
Not to be overlooked Tuesday was the reality Pierce faced in deploying his lineup.
Starting from the blue-line out, the rookie bench boss was without Troy Murray (serving the first of a two-game suspension), Tyler King (who is back in Cranbrook and set to prepare rehab after undergoing off-season knee surgery, according to president and general manager Jeff Chynoweth) and Jason Wenzel.
Up front, right wing Jaedon Descheneau was ruled out for the next four to six months after it was announced he will be undergoing shoulder surgery at the end of November.
Veteran winger Zak Zborosky (lower body) was unavailable, as was captain Luke Philp (upper body).
With all that on the table heading into Tuesday’s tilt, the puck dropped with Pierce working a bench already short two skaters.
And it only got worse from there.
Midway through the second period, sophomore winger River Beattie was knocked out of action with what Pierce deemed a head injury. Beattie, 18, will likely be subject to league concussion protocol and Pierce does not expect him to be available for the weekend.
In short, the beleaguered Ice shot caller was challenged in only having nine forwards at his disposal for most of Tuesday’s loss.
“It’s hard. It’s really hard,” Pierce said of the depleted lineup.
“You play nine forwards for the majority of the hockey game and it’s not easy. You have to take it into consideration when you’re being critical, but we still gave ourselves chances that we passed up. Or we missed them.
“That’s preparation and that’s practice.”
While the Ice may not have made life easy on themselves at times this season, there certainly have been no breaks afforded for the club in the injury department and only 22 of 72 games have been scratched off the slate.
As is life in the Western Hockey League, you put a loss in the past and move on to preparing for the next game. For Pierce, he remains encouraged by the play of his goaltenders, which Tuesday night came shining through in the form of Hobbs.
“You have to rally around [knowing] every night your goalie is going to give you a chance,” Pierce said. “There are teams out there that would be desperate for that. We’ve got that luxury. That’s a huge one.”
Hobbs made his seventh appearance of the season Tuesday. The last start for the rookie came back on Nov. 7 — a 3-2 loss to the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
“I try to get all my reps in practice — as a backup goalie you have to do that,” Hobbs said of keeping a fresh mind when faced with long stretches between starts. “Hof [Wyatt Hoflin] has been really good. He’s really supportive of me. He’s a good guy to back up.”
The Ice will look to get back in the win column Friday night when they welcome former defenceman Tanner Faith and the Moose Jaw Warriors to Western Financial Place.
Daily Townsman Three Stars
1) G Declan Hobbs, Kootenay Ice (39 saves)2) C Dario Winkler, Everett Silvertips (1G, 1A)3) G Carter Hart, Everett Silvertips (16 saves, SO)
Interview audio: Luke Pierce – Kootenay Ice head coach: